Box Score

There was a point when she was younger that Springville’s Brooke Pennington did not like playing defense. It was kind of a drag.

To see the floor on a Holli Averett-coached team though, you better learn to like defense or at least excel at it. Sometime early in Pennington’s junior year something mentally flipped, and defense actually became fun.

That group rode defense to last year’s 5A championship, and those same five starters will get a chance to repeat on Saturday after No. 1 seed Springville shut down No. 21 seed Spanish Fork 56-31 for the 5A semifinals at Weber State on Friday.

Springville’s defense forced 21 turnovers, turning them into 24 points as it outscored Spanish Fork by 15 points in the second half.

For Pennington, getting stops defensively was just as fun as scoring points at the other end on Friday, and in the end she says it has a lot to do with camaraderie.

“We’re so in sync, I guess, we’ve been playing with each other for so long, we trust each other, we know we’ll be there. I think we have a good time playing defense,” said Pennington, who recorded 13 points and five assists in the victory.

Kayla Porray led the way with 14 points, and Ellie Esplin chipped in with 12 more.

The trio has been Springville’s leading scorers all season, and were the top three scorers as well a year ago.

On Saturday in the 1:30 p.m. championship game, the three seniors will play their final game for Springville after suiting up on the varsity team as freshman. Pennington missed her sophomore season with injury, otherwise all year would’ve been four-year varsity players.

Springville has appeared in the 5A state championship game all four years, which coincides with Averett’s four seasons as head coach.

“My first year coaching was they were freshman and now seniors, It’s pretty crazy run they’ve had. The most amazing thing is they are extremely hard workers. It is not easy, we are not easy on them, it is a long season, a hard season, but they come every day ready to go,” said Averett.

She believes there’s been a little more pressure on this year’s team as they’re all returning staters, and they might’ve even felt some of that pressure in the first half against a Spanish Fork team that the Red Devils beat by 46 and 28 in the two region games.

Even though Springville led 27-17 at the half, it was 0 of 9 from 3-point range in the opening half and not in an offensive rhythm.

The defense, however, was on point as usual, and eventually the shots started dropping.

“We kept playing good D, kept them out of their rhythm to where they could get comfortable and finally the lid came off where we knocked down a couple shots,” said Averett.

Springville made 4 of 6 3-pointers in the third quarter as it stretched the lead from 10 to 19 points heading into the fourth quarter.

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Pennington said seeing that first 3-pointer finally drop was a relief and momentum booster.

“I think it helps helps not just the person who makes it but I think it helps everyone, just the confidence boost and momentum is a big thing especially in tournaments just getting that momentum and keeping it,” said Pennington.

Porray, Pennington and Samantha Stepp each finished the game with a pair of 3-pointers.

In the first half, Spanish Fork connected on 3-of-4 3-pointers, but Springville locked down the perimeter defense in the second half as the Dons made just one on only three attempts.

Averett was pleased with the way her team pulled away in the second half, something it didn’t do very well in a 51-49 quarterfinal win over Timpanogos.

“It was a good reminder that we have to have that composure,” said Averett. “It’s state, anything can happen to all good teams to where we’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to be composed and we’ve got to be able to finish every quarter in games.”

In the championship, Springville will get a chance to avenge one of its only two defeats this year, a 58-50 loss at Bountiful three months ago.

“We didn’t start great, defense wasn’t great. Now props to them, they played great when we went up to them and played, they were ready to roll, we weren’t really ready. I don’t know if it was mentally, we weren’t quite there,” said Averett. “Played a little better second half, kind of tried to make a run, but kind of a little too late. But they’re a good team, they’re going to be tough. We’ll do what we can and do what we know and see what happens.”