The Tooele girls basketball team hasn’t had the start to the Region 10 season it envisioned.
After beating Stansbury in the region opener, the Buffaloes came into Tuesday’s home game against Uintah having lost three region games in a row against Ogden, Cedar Valley and Juan Diego — all by eight points or more. They also had a 33-point non-region loss to county rival Grantsville in the midst of that stretch, giving the Buffs four straight losses and six in their past seven games.
However, Tooele showed what it is capable of when everything goes right on Tuesday. The Buffs outscored Uintah 26-17 in the second half, including 13-7 in the fourth quarter, to pull away for a 40-30 win over the Utes. Tooele (5-9, 2-3 Region 10) entered play Thursday just half a game behind Uintah (5-10, 3-3) and Ogden (6-9, 3-3) for third place in the region standings as a result of Tuesday’s triumph.
The Buffs, not known for their offense, got off to a relatively quick start on Tuesday as senior Aysha Lewis knocked down a 3-pointer on Tooele’s opening possession. A putback by Breanna Beer and another Lewis 3 had THS leading 8-3 with just over two and a half minutes left in the first quarter, before Uintah’s Kenna Gardiner hit her second trey of the period to pull the Utes within two.
Uintah took its first lead of the game early in the second quarter after a basket by Ella Wright and a free throw by Ally Bake put the Utes up 9-8. The lead see-sawed until a midrange jumper by Beer and a pair of free throws by Emma Higley gave the Buffs a 14-11 lead late in the quarter. Gardiner hit two free throws with 10.4 seconds left in the half to cut Tooele’s lead to 14-13 at the break.
Tooele began to take control of the game near the midway point of the third quarter, just after Uintah’s Jordan Woodford hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Utes a 19-17 lead. Lewis’ third trey of the contest put Tooele up 20-19, and sparked a 12-4 burst that put the Buffs ahead to stay. Beer converted an open layup off a nice feed from Rylie Hogan, and Lewis drove to the basket for another easy 2 that put the Buffs up 25-23. Lewis added two free throws just before the quarter ended, and Beer added two more foul shots early in the fourth to extend the lead to six points.
The Utes never got closer than four points after that. Even after Gardiner hit a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to 29-25, the Buffs responded with a driving layup by Higley, a baseline jumper by Hogan and a putback layup by Beer to pull ahead 35-27 with less than two minutes left.
Woodford’s 3-pointer cut Tooele’s lead to five points with 1:07 left, but the Buffs went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch and kept the Utes off the board the rest of the way.
Lewis led the Buffs with 16 points, including a 5-of-6 mark from the foul line. Beer had 13 points, Higley had six, Hogan had three and Madi Baker added two. Tooele hit 12-of-16 (75%) from the foul line as a team, and committed just eight turnovers.
Gardiner had a game-high 17 points for Uintah, and Woodford added six. Wright had four, Kyrsten Bake had two and Aly Bake had one.
Tooele faced county rival Stansbury in a region road game that was not complete at press time Thursday night. The Buffaloes will face Ogden at home Tuesday night before traveling to face Ben Lomond on Feb. 5.