The Stansbury girls basketball team executed its game plan to perfection in Wednesday night’s Class 4A first-round playoff game against Uintah — with one problem.
While the Stallions’ defense kept the Utes’ top scorers off the board, SHS couldn’t capitalize on the other end. That allowed 14th-seeded Uintah to escape with a 38-23 win over 19th-seeded Stansbury, with late free throws making the Utes’ winning margin seem more comfortable than it was in reality.
“Shots that were falling in the first half weren’t falling in the second half,” Stansbury coach Brittany Davies said. “From our standpoint, that was the game-changer.”
Stansbury (7-15) took its only lead of the game just before the midway point of the third quarter, when junior forward Epa Tia converted a difficult shot down low to put the Stallions up 16-15. However, that’s when the Stallions’ struggles from the field began. Uintah (8-13) put together a 10-3 run as Stansbury hit just one field goal in a span of 6:14.
That field goal was a 3-pointer by Tia that briefly cut Uintah’s lead to 21-19, but Kyrsten Bake scored on an inbounds play in the final seconds of the third quarter and Acy Cornpeach had a layup early in the fourth to put the Utes up six. Stansbury appeared to right itself with a jumper by Ainsley Thurber with 6:06 left that pulled the Stallions within four. Bake converted a layup through contact to make it 27-21 Utes, but Tailor Palmer’s putback layup with 5:31 left had the Stallions back within two possessions.
That was the last time the Stallions would find the scoreboard. To their credit, they kept the Utes from converting any field goals of their own, but as time started to run down, SHS was forced to foul and put Uintah on the free-throw line. The Utes hit 11 their 19 foul shots in the final quarter, allowing them to slowly pull away.
“We were attacking the rim and we weren’t getting calls,” Davies said. “It was a tough way to go out, and the score definitely doesn’t depict what really happened there. You’ve got to give Uintah credit. They’re a good team. To beat us three times shows a lot about Uintah.”
The Stallions limited the Utes’ top two scorers, Jordan Woodford and Kenna Gardiner, to just 15 combined points. Gardiner didn’t have any field goals and scored all five of her points in the fourth quarter, while Woodford didn’t hit a field goal in the second half after scoring seven points before halftime.
“We really shut them down,” Davies said. “We executed exactly what we wanted to do on defense.”
Tia had 13 points through the first three quarters for Stansbury. She and Sarah Gatluak combined to score all 11 of the Stallions’ first-half points, keeping SHS within four at halftime. Thurber hit a 3-pointer from the left corner on Stansbury’s first possession of the second half before Tia’s shot gave the Stallions the lead.
Thurber finished with five points. Gatluak had three and Palmer scored two.
“There’s two days we hate to be coaches on a high school basketball team, and that’s the day we have to make cuts and our last game together,” Davies said. “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. I’ve won four state championships, and that last day is just so hard. It’s the end of a journey.”
Woodford led Uintah with 10 points. Bake added nine.
Stansbury will return the bulk of its core next year, with Gatluak, Tia and Thurber among those returning in 2021-22.
“We lose a couple seniors, and it’s always hard to lose that senior leadership, but the core group isn’t changing much,” Davies said. “I’m excited about the future.”
Uintah will advance to the second round to face No. 3 Ridgeline on Friday afternoon in Millville.