It was a close, hard-fought, ugly-at-times battle between the Stansbury and Grantsville girls basketball teams Tuesday night at Grantsville High School.
In other words, it was exactly what one would expect from a rivalry game.
Grantsville led by as many as 10 points in the first half, only to see Stansbury tie the game in the third quarter. Eventually, however, it was the host Cowboys who came away with the 40-35 victory — their third in as many games this season.
“It’s always ugly with Stansbury,” Grantsville coach Megan Vera said. “It’s a rivalry game, so I think we go into it anticipating that. I felt like in the first half, we did a really good job staying composed and disciplined, especially with our defense.”
The Cowboys (3-0) got off to a quick start, using a 12-2 run to build a 15-5 lead on the visiting Stallions (1-1). Grantsville junior forward Maison White had seven points during that stretch, including an impressive reverse layup that resulted in a three-point play early in the second quarter. Another basket by White put Grantsville in front 17-7 with 4:12 left in the first half.
But, slowly but surely, Stansbury worked its way back into the game. The Stallions trailed 19-12 at halftime, but began the third quarter with seven unanswered points on layups by Epa Tia, Kayla Alvey and Hannah Anderson, along with an Anderson free throw, to tie the game for the first time since the first three minutes of the first quarter.
“That’s what I love about our team — they just fight and they don’t quit,” Stansbury coach Brittany Davies said. “A lot of teams would turn on each other and start folding and getting down and negative, and our girls, in both of our games, have made a switch. It’s a determined switch that they’re going to fight and they’re not going to just go down.”
Another Grantsville run allowed the Cowboys to regain control of the contest. Grantsville outscored Stansbury 14-3 over a span of 5:34 that lasted into the first minute of the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Ellie Thomas, who had nine of her 10 points during that stretch, capped the run with a 3-pointer that put the Cowboys ahead 33-22 with 7:12 left in the game.
“We obviously didn’t come out focused that third quarter,” Vera said. “It showed. We’ve got to be more focused and play hard all 32 (minutes).”
Slowly but surely, the Stallions fought back, despite foul trouble that eventually sent Tia and Ainsley Thurber to the bench. A layup by Malia Tia, followed by a series of offensive rebounds that resulted in a jumper by Sarah Gatluak, pulled Stansbury within three points at 38-35 with 1:07 left in the game, but a late steal by Ashlee Edwards helped preserve the victory for Grantsville in the waning seconds.
“That’s a good Grantsville team,” Davies said. “This atmosphere — it’s always a barn-burner. It’s always ugly basketball.”
White led Grantsville with 12 points to go with five rebounds. Thomas had 10 points and five rebounds and Edwards added eight points, six rebounds and seven steals. Kylee Thomas had seven points, four rebounds and four steals and Chloe Butler had three points. Hillary Cloward dished out four assists.
“We’re just trying to gain some consistency with our group,” Vera said. “With experience, I think that will get better.”
Epa Tia finished with a game-high 13 points and 10 rebounds for Stansbury. Thurber and Gatluak each had five points, with Gatluak grabbing six rebounds. Alvey and Malia Tia each scored four points, Anderson had three and Madison Vandam had one point and seven rebounds. Alvey had a team-high three steals.
“We’re young and most of our starters have never started a varsity game before (this season),” Davies said. “To come to Grantsville, our rivals, and learn how to control that energy and keep that ball in our hands is something they learned as the game went along. They figured it out, started taking care of it and settled in.”
Grantsville faced county rival Tooele in a non-region road game Thursday night after press time, while Stansbury traveled to Nephi to face Juab.