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High school girls basketball: Finally clutch in crunch time, Olympus pulls away from Highland in Region 6 opener

Olympus forward Alyssa Blanck grabs a rebound between Highland’s Lei Makaui, left, and Sosefina Langi during a game at Olympus High School in Holladay on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.
Olympus forward Alyssa Blanck grabs a rebound between Highland’s Lei Makaui, left, and Sosefina Langi during a game at Olympus High School in Holladay on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

In the grand scheme of things, Olympus’ 44-34 win over region rival Highland on Tuesday night was just one victory, but the lasting impact on the team’s confidence could be much more significant was the season grinds on.

Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Olympus was 0-3 in one-possession games this year, and even going back to last year it often struggled with execution in tight games down the stretch.

The Titans may have finally turned a slight corner during those crunch-time moments.

Leading 35-28 with 3:34 left in the game, Olympus watched the lead nearly disappear as Highland’s press led to six straight points in less than a minute.

Suddenly the lead was 35-34, and the Titans were ripe for another letdown. Instead, they closed the game on a 9-0 run to improve to 4-4 on the season and 1-0 in Region 6 play.

“We finally had a game that we finished even when things weren’t going our way for a second. We didn’t fall apart and we executed defensively,” said Olympus coach Whitney Jenkins.

Alyssa Blanck led Olympus with 14 points while Brooklyn Davies played one of her best games of the year in finishing with 12 points.

“She played really well tonight. Did a really good job tonight executive on the screens. She got into the lane tonight,” said Jenkins.

Neither team shot particularly well, which was tied at halftime and after the third quarter. Jenkins believes her team’s defensive energy contributed to Highland’s struggles from the floor and was a key factor in pulling out a tight win.

For Olympus, it was particularly satisfying to open region play with a win over Highland after losing to the Rams twice by four combined points last year. With the Rams then going on to win the 5A state championship, it couldn’t help but feel that it had the potential to be a championship-caliber team as well.

Jenkins scheduled a tough preseason to prepare her team for bigger games down the road, and for one night at least it paid off.

“Hopefully we’ve learned from those games and if we didn’t get the W we were at least learning, and I think that definitely helped tonight,” said Jenkins.

For Olympus, Tuesday’s game was also the first time all season all 14 varsity players have been together because of COVID-19 and family vacations.

“That was kind of a big deal,” said Jenkins.

The key is to keep the momentum going through region.

“It’s a big win for us, but obviously we have so many more region games to go and we have to play them at their place, so I told them celebrate tonight and then we’re moving on tomorrow,” said Jenkins.