SALT LAKE CITY — If Highland goes on to win the Region 6 championship next month, it will likely be looking back at Tuesday’s 52-47 double overtime win over Skyline as the catalyst.
For obvious reasons, it now has a one-game cushion over Skyline in the standings, but just as important are the intangibles Highland can take away from the road victory.
“This group of girls, they just grind things out, they’re mentally tough, they make free throws when they have to they make plays when they have to. I don’t know what it is,” said Highland coach Kurt Schneider.
The Rams came out extremely focused defensively and dominated the first half, methodically opening up a 13-point lead and holding Skyline to just four field goals.
In letting that double-digit lead slip away in the fourth quarter, however, the players were reminded how quickly everything can slip away with a passive approach on the other end of the floor.
Leading by 11 after the third, Highland turned the ball over on its first five possessions of the fourth quarter and only scored two points on two free throws the entire quarter as Skyline rallied to force overtime as Emma Clark nailed a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining.
It was Skyline’s third 3-pointer of the quarter, including two from Clark for who led the Eagles with 15 points.
Schneider said his team’s youth was a contributor, with three freshman on the floor.
“When you have a freshman point guard you kind of have to live with some of those mistakes. I could see it in her eyes the pressure got to her a little bit, she didn’t really know what to do when they were tightening up on her. We’ve got to do a better job in practice of preparing for those things,” said Schneider.
In overtime, Highland responded like a seasoned squad.
Three different times Highland fell behind in overtime, and each time it responded to tie the game up, the last one a lay-up by Kaija Glasker with 12 seconds remaining to tie the game at 43-43.
In double overtime, the Rams again trailed with under a minute remaining, but it continued to attack the basket and as a result won the game at the free throw line, where it scored the game’s final six points to improve to 8-1 in Region 6.
“Before we went out there, I told them go and there and this is what separates you right here, so if you want it, it’s your opportunity,” said Schneider.
Glasker finished with a game-high 16 points, with freshmen Sosefina Langi and Cecilia Olevao each adding 11 points.
In the first half, Skyline endured a brutal offensive drought that lasted over 10 minutes thanks to Highland’s smothering defense. After Skyline’s Amit Lustgarten made a 3-pointer on the second possession of the game, her team didn’t make another field goal until Kate Vorwaller’s jumper at the 3:13 mark of the second quarter.
During the drought, Highland built an 18-6 lead, and extended it to 27-14 by halftime.