The Grantsville girls basketball team is enjoying a spectacular 2020-21 season so far, but there was one blemish in particular that bothered the Cowboys.
On Jan. 14, Grantsville was outscored 20-5 in the first quarter of an eventual 61-52 loss to Morgan on the road, putting the Trojans in control of the Region 13 race at the time. While Morgan had since lost at home to Judge Memorial to even up the race for the region title, the Cowboys came into Tuesday’s rematch in Grantsville eager for revenge.
They got just what they were looking for, defeating Morgan 73-63 as junior Emily Backus scored 25 points off the bench and sophomore point guard Kenzie Allen just missed a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“She’s unbelievable, and she’s playing with so much confidence,” Grantsville coach Megan Vera said of Allen. “She’s doing the glue-guy stuff — she’s scoring and she’s taking care of the basketball. She had the assists, the (three) steals, the scoring, the rebounds, and she still only turned the ball over one time. You can’t ask for much more from your point guard.”
Grantsville (16-3, 6-1 Region 13) trailed 31-26 at halftime, having gotten off to a slow start in the first quarter yet again as Morgan (9-8, 5-2) built an early 9-2 lead. However, the Cowboys got things going with a 10-4 run to open the third quarter, capped by a pair of 3-pointers by Allen that put GHS up 37-35 with 4:54 left in the period.
“I think the energy of the team and how we were just flying around and being confident versus Morgan, we were just ready for revenge,” Allen said. “It was pretty easy (for me) to have all those points and be aggressive.”
The Trojans regained the lead on a 3-pointer by Camilla Brooks with 2:58 left in the quarter, and the teams swapped the lead back and forth. A layup by Backus put Grantsville up 44-42, and another 3 by Brooks put the Trojans back up by one. That was followed by dueling layups by the Cowboys’ Chloe Butler and Morgan’s Alex Trussell. Backus hit two 3-pointers from the left corner, sandwiched around an and-one by Trussell, and Trussell tied the game at 52-52 with a finger roll with 32.6 seconds left in the third.
That set up an exciting finish, as Morgan took a 56-52 lead early in the fourth on a putback layup by Alyvia Jaffa that capped a 9-3 run. Backus got the Cowboys’ offense going again with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to start a personal 8-2 run. With 5:03 left, Backus launched another deep 3-pointer to tie the game at 58-58.
“When you have a teammate pass you the ball and you hit a 3, it’s like your way of being able to pay them back,” Backus said. “It’s a nice feeling to feel like you’re contributing to your team and helping them out in any way that you can.”
Vera said she had plenty of confidence in Backus’ ability to knock down the long trey.
“We just told her, ‘if you’re open, shoot it,’” Vera said. “I thought she did a really good job taking what the defense gave her and knocking down those shots when she got them. Emily’s just about earned the green light, so most shots for her are a good shot at this point. There’s a lot of trust and we’re really starting to like her shot selection.”
It was a particularly big opportunity for Backus, who is in her first year with the Cowboys.
“The girls here are super accepting, super welcoming and they’re super good teammates,” she said. “It was an easy transition on my part. I just felt like I was able to bond with them pretty well and just build team chemistry from there.”
Backus finished the Grantsville run with a layup to put the Cowboys up 60-58 with 4:48 left. A 3-pointer by Elena Birkeland briefly put the Trojans back in front, but Grantsville ripped off 11 unanswered points over the next 3:52 to take the lead for good.
Allen and Maison White each had layups to restore the GHS lead, and Allen, White, Backus and Butler combined to go 9-for-10 from the foul line over the final 3:28 to put the game out of reach. The Cowboys also held Morgan without a field goal for more than four minutes.
“We were ready,” Allen said.
The contributions of Backus and Allen, as well as Butler, were particularly valuable, as White was in foul trouble for most of the evening. She still had 13 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late, but Backus, Allen and Butler combined for 37 points in the second half as Grantsville made its run.
“I think the girls just started to loosen up a little bit,” Vera said of the second half. “We went in with a lot of confidence with the preparation we had done, but I still think we started out a little bit tight and Morgan came out loose. We loosened up as the game went on, our shots started to fall and defensively, we got a little bit more aggressive.”
Butler finished with eight points for Grantsville, while Ellie Thomas had six points, six assists and four steals.
Trussell had 15 points and 16 rebounds for Morgan, and Jaffa added 22 points and seven rebounds. Ruby Farley had 10 points, while Danielle Bigelow and Birkeland each had eight and Brooks had six. Janel Blazzard, who had 22 points in the teams’ first meeting, finished with five points and 13 assists on Tuesday.
Grantsville traveled to Kamas on Thursday for a Region 13 game against South Summit that was not complete at press time. The Cowboys will face Summit Academy on Tuesday in Bluffdale, with their final regular-season game scheduled for Feb. 11 at home against Judge Memorial.