Early on in Tuesday night’s matchup between Herriman and Skyridge, it seemed like the Mustangs would be in for a tough night.
Trailing after the first quarter, the team that normally makes close to seven 3-pointers a game found itself 0 for 10 from beyond the arc just a few minutes into the second quarter.
With most of their points coming in transition or as a result of its full-court press, the effort clearly was there for the Mustangs, but the shots just didn’t look like they were going to go in the basket.
Head coach Kent Smith hollered out at his players after yet another missed shot, telling them to not worry about the shots not falling. If they maintained their effort, the game would eventually work in their favor.
“When you miss your shots, it can really get into your head,” Herriman senior and SUU signee Lexi Jensen said. “Coach saying that, we were able to just know that if we keep creating good shots they’re going to fall. If we keep shooting, we’re going to eventually make them.”
After the 0 for 10 start from downtown, the Mustangs went on to hit four of their next five 3-point shots, helping them gain an offensive rhythm that would only improve as the game went on.
Herriman used the improved offensive production to eventually claim a 55-46 victory over the Falcons to improve to 9-2 on the season — a solid result for a team that’s gearing up for a tough battle in Region 3.
With significant production departing with last year’s senior class — including 6A player of the year Lealani Falatea — Herriman players struggled early in the season to fill their new roles the departures required of them, but it looked like that was no longer the case Tuesday night.
Following an 0-2 start to the year, all of Herriman’s nine wins have come consecutively.
“Early in the season we weren’t quite ready for the new roles,” Smith said of his squad. “Kenlee Enger was a role player last year, Mariah Mons was a role player last year, but they’ve grown into leaders, along with Lexi, and now we have a bunch of good new role players taking their roles from last year.”
With the score knotted at 35 at the end of the third quarter, the experience of Herriman’s new, yet well-seasoned leaders became apparent as the Mustangs took control in the game’s closing minutes.
Jensen said that it simply came down to effort, like their coach told them it would earlier in the game.
“It came down to hustling and who wanted it more,” Jensen said. “We pulled together, got every loose ball that we could. When we played hard on defense it translated to offense, so keeping that defensive intensity throughout the fourth quarter really helped us.”
The effort was never lacking for Herriman as it pressed throughout the game, never seeming to lose much steam. That constant energy seemed to wear the Falcons out in the game’s closing stages.
Herriman outscored Skyridge by nine points in the game’s final eight minutes and went 10 for 12 from the free-throw line in the last 90 seconds of gameplay to stave off any last-ditch comeback attempts from the Falcons.
Skyrige got to the rim fairly often most of the night but struggled to finish in stretches, particularly in the fourth quarter. It remained to be seen if the Falcons’ finishing problems came as a result of fatigue or if it was just an off night for them in the paint.
“We got some stops and some scores (early in the fourth quarter) that allowed us to play with a little bit more confidence,” Smith said. “I don’t know if they ran out of gas, but it was just our turn to have a little run and once we got the lead back we took care of the ball and were able to close out a really good team.”
Jensen finished the game with a team-high 15 points, followed by 14 from Presley Heggie and 10 from Hallie Burbidge. Each of the leading scorers hit two 3-pointers for the Mustangs.
Skyridge sophomore Cambree Blackham, who came into the matchup averaging just over 16 points per game, scored 15 to lead the way for Skyridge. Though Blackham was able to nearly reach her scoring average, Smith felt that his team did a good job making things difficult for her offensively for the most part.
“(Slowing her down) was the key,” Smith said. “We knew she was going to get points because she’s a three-level scorer, but we wanted to make her earn every single point. We ran four different girls at her and they all got a chance to guard her, but, man, she’s just good.”
Not only were the Mustangs able to extend their win streak to nine games, but they were able to pick up valuable experience that will benefit them as they head into region play following a matchup with Maple Mountain next week.
“To see this type of athleticism (from Skyridge) live is good for us,” Smith said. “We’re going to have these types of games in our region with Riverton, we’re going to have a slugfest with Bingham, so these types of really good, tough preseason games will prepare us for a really tough Region 3.”