The Tooele girls basketball team has had its share of struggles against its neighbor to the north over the years.
Entering Tuesday’s Region 10 opener, the Buffaloes hadn’t beaten Stansbury in their past five meetings with the Stallions, with their last win coming nearly three years ago — a 37-35 Tooele triumph on Jan. 11, 2018, when the current seniors were freshmen. But thanks to a suffocating defense, the Buffs snapped that losing streak against their county rivals, defeating Stansbury 33-18 at Tooele High School.
“When the girls come out and play our defense, I think we cause a lot of problems for other teams,” Tooele coach Randy Goss said. “They put a lot of effort into it (Tuesday) night. I thought we were talking on defense, we were covering each other and they just did a really good job.”
Tooele (4-5, 1-0 Region 10) never trailed in the contest, and the Buffs held the lead for all but 2:21. The Stallions (3-7, 0-1) were short-handed coming into the game, missing starters Epa and Malia Tia because of COVID-19 protocols, which forced them to make changes to a lineup already struggling with consistency in the early part of the season.
“They just bring such a different tempo and style to our play, and they’re hard to guard,” Stansbury coach Brittany Davies said. “We were kind of interested to see how our team would play without them and if they would execute. It changed the whole dynamic of our team, so we were anxious to see what that would look like.”
A pair of putback layups by Tooele’s Breanna Beer, as well as a driving layup by Aysha Lewis, had the Buffs ahead 6-2 midway through the first quarter. Stansbury’s Ainsley Thurber drew a foul and hit two free throws to pull the Stallions within two points, but Tooele answered with a 13-4 run that stretched six minutes into the second quarter to take control of the contest.
Madi Baker hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Tooele an 11-4 lead early in the second quarter, and a layup by Lewis and another 3 by Baker extended the lead to 16-7 with 3:41 left in the first half. Lewis’ breakaway layup stretched the Buffs’ advantage to 18-7, and Tooele took a 20-9 lead into halftime.
A bit of sloppy play by the Buffs threatened to let the Stallions back into the game in the third quarter, and led Goss to call two timeouts in a span of just over two minutes to get his team settled back down. Eventually, a basket by Emma Higley and a 3-pointer by Lewis got things back on track, and the Buffs took a 13-point lead after three quarters.
“We had that little blurb in the third quarter, which kind of haunts us sometimes,” Goss said. “I thought, mentally, we bounced back from it pretty good.”
Meanwhile, Stansbury couldn’t muster a comeback. Another starter, Sarah Gatluak, suffered a knee injury that caused her to miss much of the second half, and Thurber picked up her third, fourth and fifth personal fouls of the contest within the first 1:30 of the fourth quarter.
“It just seemed like it was a perfect storm,” Davies said. “We obviously have a lot of work to do and some things we need to figure out, but what do you do with a game like that? We can’t sit and dwell on it and worry about it and change everything that we’re doing and make major changes just because of that game.”
Lewis led all scorers with 12 points for Tooele. Baker had seven points, Higley and Beer each had six and Rylie Hogan had two.
“It seems like there was a little Stansbury curse there for a while,” Goss said. “I don’t know why we’ve always kind of had self-doubts about ourselves when we’ve played them, but (Tuesday) night the girls were confident.”
Gatluak led Stansbury with five points, and Thurber and Jessica Smart each had four. Brooke Jensen had three points and Tailor Palmer had two.
“They gave me everything they had,” Davies said. “It just didn’t click. Things just didn’t fall into place like they should. We have so much more potential than we’re putting out there right now.”
Both teams were in action Thursday night after press time, with Tooele traveling to Ogden and Stansbury playing host to Ben Lomond. The Buffaloes will travel to Grantsville for a non-region game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and Stansbury will face Cedar Valley in a region game Tuesday in Eagle Mountain.