The Tooele girls basketball team has found its stride, and it’s starting to pay off in the Region 10 standings.
The Buffaloes won their third Region 10 game in a row Tuesday night, knocking off Cedar Valley 46-38 at Tooele High School behind sophomore Alivia Cluff’s 20 points. Tooele (6-8, 3-1 Region 10) didn’t trail for the final 27 minutes of the game, and used a suffocating defense to keep the Aviators (3-11, 2-3) at bay.
“It’s definitely huge, because now we’re 3-1, so that gives us a really big step up in our confidence,” Cluff said.
Tooele took a 17-9 lead midway through the second quarter when Cluff stole the ball, went coast-to-coast for a layup and drew a foul, hitting the resulting free throw to cap an 11-3 Buffaloes run. However, the Aviators finished the half with a 10-2 run of their own, forging a 19-19 tie at halftime. Cedar Valley’s run was aided by Tooele’s foul trouble, as the Buffs were whistled for 14 personal fouls in the first half, sending several key players to the bench.
The Buffs responded by opening the third quarter on a 12-2 run, holding Cedar Valley without a field goal until Naomi Nicholson’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the period. Meanwhile, the Buffs got a 3-pointer from Aysha Lewis, a traditional three-point play from Natalee Bevan and key baskets from Cluff and Jy’onie Camacho to take control of the contest.
“Team-wise, we play a lot better when we get everybody going on defense and offense,” Tooele coach Randy Goss said. “We slow down, we start passing the ball, we start looking for the cutters, and I thought we hit some nice little plays in there.”
While Tooele led by just five points entering the fourth quarter, the game’s outcome was never in question. The Buffs hit just enough of their free throws and led by as many as 11 points, and the Aviators never got closer than six points over the final eight minutes.
“We are playing more as a team, getting more comfortable with each other,” Cluff said. “We know each others’ strengths and we just build on it. We work off of each other and that’s what really helps us.”
Lewis had nine points for the Buffaloes, with Bevan scoring eight. Breanna Beer had three points and Rylie Hogan, Gabrielle Mahoe and Camacho each scored two.
“Bench-wise, we had quite a few who had to step up the number of minutes they usually play,” Goss said. “I give them a lot of credit for that. I thought (Mahoe) came out and did a heck of a job stepping in there and taking control of the paint and getting rebounds.”
Taylor Miyasaki led Cedar Valley with 11 points. Nicholson and Mia Fisher had eight each, with Megan Jensen scoring seven and Madi Sullivan adding four.
Tooele’s victory was particularly big, with Friday’s road game against Region 10 leader Juan Diego looming on the horizon. The Buffs hope the momentum they’ve gained over the past three region games can carry over against the Soaring Eagle.
“We’re going to be prepared and we’re going to play as a team,” Cluff said.
Goss believes his team has the confidence to compete against anybody after its recent run of success.
“I think the girls believe they can beat them,” Goss said. “They’ve beaten them before. We’ve got to cut off the dribble penetration and force them to shoot outside. If we force them to shoot it outside, I think we stand a pretty good chance.”