It’s not exactly easy playing in a college arena if you’ve never done it before.
Watching the two Grantsville games Thursday and Friday against Morgan and Cedar, it was obvious which teams had tournament experience.
Even easier to tell which one didn’t — For the second time in as many nights, the Grantsville girls basketball team had stars in their eyes against a good opponent in the Class 3A playoffs, and lost.
Grantsville head coach Megan Vera said without hesitation that lack of experience was what led to the Cowboy downfall.
“The state tournament is tough,” Vera said following Thursday’s loss to Morgan in the quarterfinal. “These girls haven’t been here before, and I think they had those jitters.”
Grantsville scored just four points in the second quarter against Morgan. They performed slightly better with an eight-point performance in the second quarter against Cedar in the consolation bracket the next day.
Compared with 18- and 23-point comeback attempts in the fourth quarters of those two games, the Cowboys were obviously mentally ill-prepared for the bright lights.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially for senior center Abby Butler, who has played on the varsity squad all four seasons of Vera’s tenure at Grantsville.
“We came out and weren’t focused and had a flat first half,” she said. “But we came back, and we showed them what Grantsville basketball is really about, not giving up in the second half.”
But the future is bright for this up-and-coming Grantsville program. Although they lose Butler and fellow-seniors Rylie Ekins and Brayle Crosman, the Cowboys have a plethora of talented underclassmen.
They all, like incoming senior Paige McCluskey, now have tournament experience.
Grantsville finished this season with a 21-4 overall record and a Region 10 championship.
“It was a tough loss, but we have proved so much this whole season,” Butler said. “All four years, ever since Coach Vera showed up, we have proved so much that you can turn anything around.”
Tavin Stucki is a sportswriter from Midvale, Utah, who hasn’t found a sport he doesn’t like. Follow him on Twitter @TooeleTAVscript or send comments to email@example.com.