The Tooele girls basketball team hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success in recent seasons, but it sure seems like the Buffaloes are turning a corner.
The hardest thing for a program that has been struggling is learning how to win. In the case of Tooele’s game against Summit Academy, it’s even harder to figure out how to win when things aren’t going your way.
The Buffs struggled to score, missing open shots that they ordinarily would hit. There were some 50-50 calls by the officials that went against Tooele at a time when the Buffs really could have benefited from a fortunate bounce. Rebounds always seemed to find their way into the Bears’ hands. You could go on and on about the reasons Tooele shouldn’t have won.
In years past, they wouldn’t have. With so much going against them, the Buffaloes would simply have folded, content with being close and willing to admit it just wasn’t their night.
But these aren’t the Buffs of old. This team has a belief that it has a chance to win as long as there is still time remaining on the clock. That much was obvious Thursday night, when they trailed by six points with under a minute left.
Up to that point, Tooele had but 30 points on the scoreboard. To score six points in 20 seconds to tie the game when you’ve only scored 30 points in the previous 31 minutes and 40 seconds would seem like an insurmountable task to most teams. But not to these Buffs. In fact, they did it and then some, winning the game on Emily Webber’s buzzer-beater.
On the surface, it seems like just another mid-December, non-region win, albeit one that the Buffs managed to get by the skin of their teeth against a smaller school. To the casual observer, it doesn’t seem like something they should celebrate all that much.
But it’s one of those victories that can help define the rest of the Buffs’ season. A loss on Thursday night would have been Tooele’s third in a four-game span. There could have been a feeling of “here we go again” for a program that has just one winning season out of the past 11.
But when Webber’s baseline jumper swished through the net at the buzzer, all of those worries evaporated. A win over Tintic on Tuesday would send Tooele into the Region 11 opener with a 4-2 record and a three-game winning streak, with a region title race that looks to be wide open. One shot took Tooele from “here we go again” to “why not us” in an instant.
While there’s a lot of basketball to be played between now and the start of the state tournament, if Tooele goes into it with a high seed, you might be able to look back at Thursday’s win in Summit Academy’s tiny gym as the point where the Buffs took their first step toward becoming a truly good team.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He enjoys few things more than a game that comes down to the last second. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.