OGDEN — For much of the sports season, the Bountiful Redhawks were what coach Joel Burton called “champions without being champions.”
Most of Bountiful’s roster consisted of players who spent last fall either losing in the state championship game in soccer or falling unexpectedly in the semifinals in volleyball.
It’s not so complicated anymore, because now the Redhawks are champions. Period.
Thanks to a late-game explosion from freshman Milika Satuala and the ability to match the intensity of one of 5A’s best defenses, No. 2 Bountiful ended the dynastic run of No. 1 Springville with a 41-39 victory and claimed the 5A girls basketball state championship. It’s the first 5A title for the program since joining 5A in 2016 the year after winning their last title in 4A the prior season.
“I don’t know if I can really verbalize it,” Burton said. “These kids were champions without being champions, and I am so proud of what they’ve done, not only on the basketball court, but on the volleyball and on the soccer pitch. They’ve been doing this all year long. It’s unreal what they’ve been able to accomplish in 2023.”
For Bountiful’s players who been working so hard since last fall to win a championship in something, anything, there was a palpable sense of relief when time expired in the fourth quarter, not just because of that, but also because of how tense the final minute actually was.
Over the final 1:30 of the fourth quarter, senior guard Lizzy McConkie drained one of just two 3-pointers the Redhawks made the whole game, this one tying it up with under a minute to go, 39-39. After forcing a miss from Springville, Satuala got through the defense and drained a go-ahead layup, giving the two-time defending champion Red Devils roughly 16 seconds to decide how to end it.
Springville opted to go for it all and got senior Samantha Stepp open on the arc, who took a shot that looked good almost every part of the way.
But the ball just rattled out, and Bountiful held on to topple the dynasty.
“All season long, we prided ourselves on our defense,” Burton said. “Just being able to hold them down as good as we did, with the way that team can score, I’m just so proud of what they did defensively.”
Satuala showed in a big way what Bountiful’s future holds as she led the team in scoring with 16 points on 7 of 12 shooting. She scored nine of her points in the fourth quarter when the Redhawks needed it most. Sophomore Taylor Harvey added 10 points, rounding off an incredible tournament, an experience that her older sister, senior Jordyn Harvey, said was unforgettable to share with her.
“Being able to do this with my sister and being coached by our dad [assistant coach Tony Harvey], we were all in this together,” Jordan said. “This is an experience I will never get to share with her again…something we’re going to tell our kids.”
Springville’s defense haunted Bountiful throughout the first half, forcing 13 turnovers and converting them into 15 of the Red Devils’ 17 total points in the half. Springville had 27 shot attempts to Bountiful’s 14 at halftime.
The second quarter was a trade-off of runs as Springville went on a 6-0 run to double up Bountiful, 12-6. After almost five minutes without a basket, the Redhawks answered in kind with a 7-0 run capped by an and-1 finish by Satuala to take a 13-12 lead. Not to be outdone, the Red Devils hit right back as senior Brooke Pennington hit the team’s first 3-pointer of the game.
Senior guard Kayla Porray finished the half with a layup as time expired to give Springville a 17-13 halftime lead. Pennington led all scorers with nine points, while Satuala led the Redhawks with five.
Pennington went on to lead Springville and all scorers with 17 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
It appeared the Red Devils were going to run away with it in the third quarter when a layup by senior Ellie Esplin put them up 30-21, but Bountiful fought back. Satuala had the last word in the quarter as she blew up Springville’s last offensive possession and streaked the other way for a layup as the clock expired in the third quarter.
Bountiful’s momentum continued into the final period as the Redhawks went on a 13-2 run to take a 34-32 lead. The two teams traded baskets before Satuala closed it out with the go-ahead layup, winning the title her and her teammates had been craving for so long.
MVP — Taylor Harvey, So., Bountiful
Milika Satuala, Fr., Bountiful
Brooke Pennington, Sr., Springville
Ellie Esplin, Sr., Springville
Tina Njike, Sr., Skyline
Emily Gwilliam, Sr. Spanish Fork