The Tooele girls basketball team did everything it hoped to do in its Class 4A second-round state tournament game against Cedar City on Friday — at least on the defensive end of the floor.
Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they were unable to translate that stifling defense into enough points on the offensive end. The No. 8-seeded Reds battled their way to a 37-26 win over the No. 9 Buffs at Cedar High School, ending Tooele’s season one game away from a trip to Richfield for a quarterfinal game.
“We just weren’t hitting our shots,” Tooele coach Randy Goss said. “I thought we played pretty tough. We were still with them right there until the end.
“These girls had great character and competitiveness. For what we had and the way we played, they bough into the defense and they played team ball. I was just so proud of them. It was great to go to work with them every day in practice and when we went out for the games, I know the confidence was there. I know they put everything they could into playing every game. I enjoyed working with them, and I know (assistant coach Chris) Baker would say the same thing.”
Despite the offensive woes, Tooele (11-11) was right in the game through the first three quarters. Cedar (12-11) led 11-5 after the first quarter, but Tooele cut the lead to 15-12 at halftime and the Reds were clinging to a 20-19 lead after three quarters. But Cedar City, the defending Class 4A state champions, outscored the Buffs 17-7 over the final eight minutes to pull away.
“The big thing was that we just didn’t make some of our shots,” Goss said. “We had to change up (the defense) and go man-to-man and gamble here and there, and some of our gambles didn’t pay off.”
Tooele’s defense was typically strong, holding Cedar under its season average of 42.2 points per game. The Buffs gave up an average of just 34.7 points per game this season.
“We didn’t get into a running game with them, and we did control the tempo there.”
Senior guard Madi Baker led Tooele with 12 points, hitting two 3-pointers. Junior forward Breanna Beer added seven points, while seniors Aysha Lewis and Emma Higley had five and two points, respectively.
“The girls played tough,” Goss said. “Cedar’s a good team — very well-coached. They know us pretty well and we know them, and that’s just the way the ball bounced (Friday) night. We just couldn’t get them to drop.”
Baker, Lewis and Higley will leave some big shoes to fill, though the Buffs have some promising young talent that is ready to step up, Goss said.
“I love those girls,” he said. “Whoever was on the floor, they battled, and that says a lot for the seniors. I don’t think any of them were out for themselves — they came to win.”