The Orem girls basketball season looked as if it were over by halftime Tuesday night in the first round of the 5A state tournament. The Tigers seemed to have no answer for a sharp shooting Box Elder squad that drilled five 3-point shots in the first quarter on Orem’s home floor. The Bees flew out of the gates, quickly stunning their hosts and humming their way to a 12-point lead by quarter’s end.
Box Elder extended that lead in the second quarter as the Tigers continued to struggle to put points on the board. Orem’s familiar baskets seemed small and unforgiving to a Tiger team that averages over 43 points a game. Box Elder led 15-29 at the half.
Orem head coach Kristy Pack explained her approach in the locker room at halftime. “I erased our game plan on the board, and I wrote ‘one basket at a time,’” she said.
The newly hired head coach knew what it was like to face adversity after taking the reins when second year head coach Nick Taylor abruptly quit before season’s end. “I feel like we just needed to focus on what was important in the moment. That was one play at a time. We were too worried about the big picture.”
That was exactly what Orem needed to hear. The Tigers battle with the Bees had a completely different second act following intermission. The Bees were swarmed by Orem defenders as Pack changed her defensive strategy and implemented full court pressure throughout the second half.
“That was a hard decision,” Pack said of her choice to go to the full court press. “I didn’t want to tire the girls out too much because I knew that we needed them on the offensive and defensive side. But we felt like we could get in Box Elders’ head. The point of the press wasn’t to steal immediately, it was just to get them out of their system enough to make them make mistakes.”
“I feel like we just needed to focus on what was important in the moment. That was one play at a time. We were too worried about the big picture.” — Orem head coach Kristy Pack
The pressure did exactly that, rushing the Bees’ pace and forcing them into one turnover after another. Orem’s stifling defense held Box Elder to a measly five points in the third quarter and slightly better eight in the fourth.
The Tigers outhustled the Bees in the second half, muscling their way to offensive rebounds time and time again. Pack was pleased with her team’s extra effort to rebound the ball. “Rebounds made the game,” she said. “We practiced rebounds. We knew that was what it was going to come down to against Box Elder, rebounds in the second half.”
Orem senior captain Tori Hollingshead and freshman forward Rayli Galiai were there to clean up after the Tiger missed baskets. The Tigers took their first lead of the second half when Galiai nabbed an offensive rebound and coupled it with a bucket in the paint, giving Orem the 39-37 advantage. Orem would never trail again, winning the game 49-42 in dramatic fashion.
Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Tigers hope to continue their hot streak. Orem will be rewarded with a tough matchup against a one-loss Farmington team in the second round of the state tournament Thursday. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.