All season long, Stansbury girls basketball coach Brittany Davies has told her team how important strong defense is to its success.
In the early stages of Tuesday’s Region 10 game against Cedar Valley, the Stallions learned what can happen when their defense is lacking. The Aviators soared to an early 8-0 lead, leading Davies to call a timeout — one during which she stayed completely out of the huddle and told her team to talk things out among themselves.
Whatever was said during that one-minute breather seemed to sink in for Stansbury, which nearly doubled up Cedar Valley the rest of the way for a 57-43 win at Stansbury High School.
“It all starts with our defense,” Davies said, still somewhat bothered by the Stallions’ sluggish start. “When we come out lackadaisical and slow to the gaps, letting them drive through the lane way too easy, then we started reaching and we got in foul trouble. With two minutes left in the first quarter, they were in the bonus. We weren’t in good positions, we were getting outworked and we were getting outsmarted defensively as far as position goes.”
Once Stansbury (8-4, 3-0 Region 10) got its defense in gear, junior forward Sarah Gatluak went to work on the offensive end. She scored eight of her team’s first 12 points to pull the Stallions even with 3:14 left in the first half.
“I think, honestly, it was just swinging the ball and getting it inside,” Gatluak said. “That just opened it up for me. We called that timeout and I got a defensive stop, and I was like, ‘yeah, I’m going to keep going.’ The energy was just different.”
Stansbury closed the first half on a 14-4 run over the final 9:56, turning an 11-4 deficit into an 18-15 advantage. The Stallions’ surge continued into the third quarter, with Hannah Anderson’s layup giving SHS a 29-19 lead with 3:56 left in the period.
However, foul trouble allowed the Aviators (2-10, 1-2) to remain within striking distance. Epa Tia picked up her third and fourth fouls of the game in a 31-second span late in the third quarter, and Gatluak and Madison Van Dam each were whistled for their fourth fouls early in the fourth quarter. Cedar Valley closed the gap to three points shortly after on a basket by Naomi Nicholson with 6:07 left in the game.
Gatluak and Tia each fouled out near the midway point of the fourth quarter, and Nicholson hit 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to cut Stansbury’s advantage to 42-39 with 3:43 left. That’s when the Stallions’ senior leaders stepped up, as Kayla Alvey had a layup with 2:35 left to extend the lead to 46-40. On Cedar Valley’s next possession, Alvey stole the ball and found Anderson for a wide-open layup to stretch the lead to eight points.
Alvey and Anderson went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 1:33 to help seal the victory.
“I kind of got on Kayla today,” Davies said. “She was sitting on the bench and I looked at her and said, ‘do you want to play?’ She said ‘yes’ and went out in that fourth quarter and just dominated. She was getting rebounds and going after all the loose balls. That’s what a senior leader does for your team. Wehn the tough times come, you count on your seniors to step up, and that’s what she did.”
Gatluak finished with a game-high 20 points, while Anderson had 10 and Ainsley Thurber added nine. Tia had seven points, Alvey had six, Madison Van Dam had three and Gracey Hinton had two. Stansbury was 17-for-28 from the free-throw line, including a 10-for-12 mark in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
The Stallions will face preseason Region 10 favorite Juan Diego on Friday in Draper. The Soaring Eagle beat Uintah 43-25 on Tuesday to improve to 7-4 overall and 2-0 in region play.
“With Juan Diego coming up, this was a good push,” Gatluak said. “We’ve just got to keep moving. In the first half, we’ve got to push more than we just did (against Cedar Valley).”
Megan Jensen led Cedar Valley with 11 points, and Taylor Miyasaki had nine. Nicholson scored eight points, Mia Fisher had six, Lelei Pili had five and Madison Sullivan had four. Nicholson, Sullivan and Fisher each fouled out of the game, as the teams combined for 47 fouls and 63 free-throw attempts. Cedar Valley was 16-for-35 from the charity stripe.
The Aviators will face Ogden at home Friday night.