It’s often said that it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. While that may be true, the Lone Peak girls basketball team proved Tuesday night that a strong start can really make it much easier to deal that finishing blow.
After a strong first quarter that saw Lone Peak outscore Syracuse 22-8, the Knights were able to claim a 59-46 victory over the Titans and punch their ticket into the 6A semifinals.
The Knights were able to claim the victory despite a rough shooting night from their star sophomore Kailey Woolston. Woolston, who scored six of her 10 points from the free-throw line during the final two minutes of the game, shot just 22% from the field on the night.
Lone Peak coach Nancy Warner said that her team showed that they have much more depth than some may think.
“The supporting cast proved that others can step up as well,” said Warner. “I was really proud of them for finding each other, and the fact that they were able to find each other was the biggest difference tonight.”
Lone Peak point guard Makeili Ika was the primary player who stepped up to bolster the Knight’s offensive attack. Ika finished with a game-high 21 points and used her quick pace-of-play to constantly keep the Syracuse defense under pressure.
“She stepped up big-time,” Warner said, speaking about Ika’s performance. “She has huge potential, she didn’t settle, she wasn’t shy, she attacked the rim and also hit some threes when she was open. She read the defense really well and set up our team.”
Ika played an especially big role in the fast start for the Knights, scoring 10 of her team’s first 17 points, including two 3-pointers that gave Lone Peak the momentum to start the game.
Syracuse gradually improved as the game progressed and essentially went toe-to-toe with the Knights over the final three quarters. The Titans fought and were able to cut Lone Peak’s 14 point lead to five with three minutes left in the game.
To ensure that Syracuse couldn’t close the lead any further, Lone Peak maintained possession for over a minute and forced Syracuse to send them to the free-throw line. The fouling set the stage for Woolston and the Knights — who went 8-for-8 from the line over the final two minutes — to put the finishing touches on the game.
Warner said that she was proud of the way her team defended a Syracuse team that has so many capable scorers.
“The biggest thing we accomplished, given all the firepower Syracuse has both inside and out, was to keep them to ‘one-and-done’ and keep them off the offensive glass. That defensive intensity and effort was a huge swing for us tonight,” said Warner.
To its credit, Syracuse was able to fight its way back into the game, and head coach Braden Hamblin was quick to credit his team for it’s effort.
“Very proud of our team for the way they battled down the stretch,” said Hamblin. “It’s a testament to their character and how they’ve worked all year long. I love our team and wouldn’t want to go into battle with anyone else.”
The victory sets the stage for a semifinal matchup between Lone Peak and Herriman Thursday afternoon, a rematch of the first game of the season for each team. Herriman won that game by a score of 55-49.
Warner said that she and her team are eager to prove that they aren’t the same team that Herriman played during game one.
“We’re excited to see them again. With the way that we played in the beginning and knowing that we’re a different team at this point in time, we’re definitely excited,” Warner said.