With a frontcourt that features 6-foot-3 Tina Njike and 6-foot-1 Ayla Williams, the Skyline Eagles will someday be a force in Utah girls basketball.

The state rankings don’t show it yet, but the Eagles took a step forward on their home court Tuesday night as Njike had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Williams 15 points and 16 rebounds in a 59-52 win over East in a matchup of Region 6 leaders.

Skyline led most of the game but needed a fourth-quarter boost from sophomore Abbi Leonard, who made a 3-pointer, blocked a shot and grabbed a key rebound in the final four minutes to lift the Eagles to 8-4 overall and 3-0 in region.

“A great win for us. East likes to mix their defenses on us. They are athletic and fast,” said Skyline coach Samuel White. “We didn’t always take care of the ball and, when we were sloppy, they made us pay.”

While Skyline had a huge size advantage, the Leopards forced 25 turnovers and could have pulled off the upset if not for its inconsistent 3-point shooting. Of the Leopards’ 59 shots, 35 were from 3-point range — and they made just seven.

That helped Skyline get off to a fast start. The Eagles took a 16-2 first-quarter lead. Skyline started fast, taking a 16-2 first-quarter lead before East stepped up its defensive pressure.

Leopards’ coach Tapasa Tapusoa varied his defenses, frustrating the Eagles and taking advantage of their youth. Skyline’s starting lineup consisted of two freshmen, a sophomore (Williams), a junior (Njike) and senior (Erica Clark). While they are talented and enthusiastic, they are still working on maturity.

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East missed its first nine shots from the perimeter. When Fane Puletau finally found the range, the Leopards gained momentum and the outcome was in doubt until Leonard, an all-state soccer player who had just recently recovered from a concussion, matched East’s athleticism with some of her own.

“She’s a superb athlete who gave us a boost,” White said. “She started last year (as a freshmen) and we’re still trying to refine her basketball skills.”

Clark added seven points for Skyline and Leonard six. Mia Tarver topped East with 21 points. Puletau and Taina Lee had 13. The Leopards felt to 4-7 overall and 2-1 in region.

Skyline will try to set itself apart from its region opponents Friday when it takes on rival Olympus. A win there might be enough to put the Eagles among 5A’s top teams with the end of the regular season about a month away.

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