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Young Ridgeline squad proves it can play with anybody in victory over Davis

The underclassmen-driven Ridgeline squad that starts four sophomores and a freshman showed that age is just a number in their 48-40 road victory over Davis Tuesday afternoon.

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Ridgeline High School’s Macie Brown (22) and Elise Livingston (23) and another teammate defend Davis High School’s Kendra Kitchen in Kaysville on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

After losing key contributors to graduation — including the school’s all-time leading scorer Haley Anderson — this season’s Ridgeline Riverhawks don’t roster a single senior, but you’d never be able to tell that by watching them.

The underclassmen-driven squad that starts four sophomores and a freshman showed that age is just a number in their 48-40 road victory over Davis Tuesday afternoon. The win improved the Riverhawks to 11-0 on the season and dealt the Darts their first loss in eight games.

Trailing 12-2 five minutes into the game, the scoreboard suggested that maybe the 4A school was about to be outmatched by its 6A opponent over the remaining 27 minutes of play, but it never felt like the Riverhawks were being outplayed.

Offensively, Ridgeline players missed seven layups in the first half, but were generating looks that made head coach Ainsli Jenks confident in her team’s prospects for the remainder of the game.

“We were getting the right shots, but they just wouldn’t fall,” Jenks said. “Something we really stressed was that they have the green light, they all get to shoot, they just need to keep shooting the ball, and I think that helped us.”

The shots eventually started to fall for Ridgeline, but it was the defense that played the biggest role in the comeback and eventual victory.

After cutting the lead the three at halftime (27-24), the Riverhawks held Davis to just 13 second-half points and just two points in the third quarter.

Jenks praised the maturity of her young squad and the players’ ability to make in-game adjustments after the halftime break, which was made apparent by their improved second half defense.

“In the locker room (after the game) I was talking to them about how impressed I am with their understanding of the game,” Jenks said. “They’re all really high IQ players. They’ve played so much basketball and they love it so much — they just get it.”

The defense allowed the Riverhawks to take their first lead of the game with 6:42 in the third quarter and shot-making gave them a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Freshman Emilee Skinner (14 points, four rebounds, a steal and a block) and sophomore Macie Brown (14 points, six rebounds and six assists) led the way offensively for the Riverhawks. Eight of Skinner’s 14 points came at the free throw line as she went a perfect 8 for 8 from the charity stripe to drown Davis’ attempted late-game rally.

“They’re all really high IQ players. They’ve played so much basketball and they love it so much — they just get it.” — Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks

Sophomore Kendra Kitchen was the leading scorer for the Darts with 14 points.

The Riverhawks were able to contain Davis’ leading scorer and UVU commit Kylee Mabry (12.6 ppg) for most of the game, holding her to just seven points.

“Kylee is an excellent player,” Jenks said. “Our key was to just keep her out of the paint because she’s so smart. If she gets in the key, she’s either going to score or dump it off to her teammates, so keeping her outside of the paint and keeping the ball out of her hands was key.”

What made the defensive output from Ridgeline even more impressive was how many players contributed on that side of the court.

Foul trouble forced Jenks to go deeper into her bench than she would normally, but those players who found their way to the floor picked up right where the rotation players left off.

“I was really impressed with those young kids,” Jenks said. “It’s a tribute to them playing defense in varsity practice. They’re used to playing defense on our rotation players and I thought they did a really good job at stepping up and playing that same defense for us.”

The win showed the young Ridgeline squad can play with any team in the state, regardless of classification, and undoubtedly proved that it will challenge for the 4A state title in the spring.

The scary part — at least for Riverhawks’ future opponents — is that they’re just getting their feet wet.