After a disappointing second-place finish last year in the championship game to Monticello Academy, the Excelsior Lions came back in 2023 ready to avenge their loss and bring home a state title in the Utah Charter and Small School Athletic League (UCSSAL). The Lions finished their regular season undefeated and headed to the tournament as a No.1 seed. After wins in the quarterfinals over Wasatch Academy and semifinals over Providence Hall, the Lions brought home the championship with a win over Monticello.
“It was so sweet to get redemption and beat Monticello,” eighth grader and top scorer Kennedy Searle said. “All season we wanted it so bad, a chance to get revenge on Monticello for 2022!”
During the regular season, the Lions beat Monticello twice. The first game was closer, but they made adjustments and won by a larger margin in the second game. In the championship game, Excelsior jumped out to a lead early in the game and stayed in control right up to the end.”
Head coach Tylee Searle commented, “It was a great game. The girls have improved so much this season. They came into this game with so much confidence, so pumped up and excited. They came out ready to win!”
“The girls followed our game plan that we’ve developed since we played Monticello twice in region. They have a 6’2’’ girl inside, so we know we needed to shoot outside. During the finals Kennedy hit a three pointer, and Camaira Sacre did as well!” she added.
“We have such talented girls this year. Our A team went undefeated and won the championship, and our B team also went undefeated,” she said.
To advance to the finals, the Lions had to take down Providence Hall in the semifinals. “I think our best game of the season this year was our semifinal game,” Coach Searle explained. “We had a balanced attack with five players scoring. It was a great game to advance to the finals.”
“Camilla Brito had a huge game for us in the semis. She rebounded amazingly and must have pulled down 15 rebounds. She has been a great rebounder all year and has improved by leaps and bounds,” Searle said.
Kennedy Searle, Excelsior’s 5 ‘11’’ point guard who plays competitive basketball outside of the team, was the top scorer all season. Coach Searle noted, “We relied on Kennedy. She scores, she rebounds, and she is our primary ball handler. She came out hot in the championship game and set the tone by scoring three three-pointers in the first half.”
Coach Searle had many players on the team who were new to basketball, and she worked hard to develop them throughout the season. She is thrilled with the progress each of them made and credits their hard work and determination.
“Lola Jensen is a first-year basketball player who has a lot of natural ability. She worked hard on defense and became a starter. “
“Camaira Sacre and Amelia basically “shared” a position due to alternating injuries, but they provided so much for the team when it was needed.”
“Skye Hansen is a great ball handler, and she gave 110% all season. She plays with her heart and had several steals for layups during the season.”
“Addie Farnsworth added a lot of strength under the basket and was a leader for us on the B team as well.”
“As a sixth grader, Harper Sorenson improved so much during that season that by the semifinal game, she played almost half of the game,” Searle commented as she continued to recall the great improvements each of her players made during the season.”
“It was so much fun,” Coach Searle concluded. “I loved it. I loved coaching the girls, and I’m really going to miss it next year.” Searle, who teaches PE at Excelsior Elementary, is “retiring” from coaching middle school to follow her daughter’s high school career next season.
Members of the championship A team and undefeated B Team include Kennedy Searle, Camaira Sacre, Lola Jensen, Addie Farnsworth, Skye Hansen, Amelia Sandy, Harper Sorenson, Madelyn Flygare, Anna Snideman, Abbie Smith, Angie Lyons, Julie Brown, and Camilla Brito. The team is coached by Searle, who is assisted by Coach Jason Soto.
“I am so grateful for middle school sports,” Searle said. “I love watching the players’ confidence grow as they learn new skills. Sports help develop self-esteem as the players work hard and improve. It’s great for them to try out a sport before they get to high school and determine if they like it and want to continue in high school.”
“In addition, being on a team gives the kids a friendship and camaraderie that can carry on off the court. It gives them a place to belong. There are so many great things about middle school sports.”
First round- Excelsior defeats Wasatch 33-15
Semifinals- Excelsior defeats Providence 39-25
Finals- Excelsior defeats Providence 31-16 to win title