Strong defense has made the Tooele girls basketball team tough to beat this season, and it appeared that Juan Diego had its hands full through the first 16 minutes of Thursday’s game at Tooele High School.
The Buffaloes trailed 19-16 at halftime, and had gotten a spark from senior guard Aysha Lewis, who scored nine second-quarter points off the bench. Breanna Beer scored at the buzzer to cap a 10-4 run, giving Tooele momentum. Unfortunately for the Buffs, Juan Diego regained its footing in the second half, outscoring THS 34-14 over the final two quarters en route to a 53-30 win.
Juan Diego (8-6, 4-1 Region 10) went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter, interrupted only by a free-throw-line jumper by Madi Baker on Tooele’s first possession of the half. Buffs coach Randy Goss called a pair of timeouts during the Soaring Eagle’s run to try to stem the tide, but by the time the run was over, Juan Diego led by 11 with 3:04 left in the quarter. Beer hit two free throws to briefly stop the run, but a pair of buckets by Mahinetea Tavanae and Kira Rhay put the Eagle up 33-20 with 1:56 left in the third. Tavanae added insult to injury with a deep 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to extend the Eagle advantage to 39-24.
After Juan Diego’s Destinee Flores’ 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 18 points, Tooele never got closer than 16 points over the final 6:14. The Eaglefinished the game with seven unanswered points.
Tooele struggled early on offense, scoring just three points in the first quarter and going almost 10 minuted before its first field goal — a 3-pointer from the left wing by Lewis. However, the Buffs’ defense yielded just eight points in the first quarter to keep them within striking distance, and once the offense hit its groove, the Buffs were able to make the game competitive before things went south in the second half.
Tooele’s bench outscored its starting lineup 16-14, led by Lewis’ 11 points. Zada Jackson added five points. Beer led the starters with six points, with Baker adding four, Emma Higley two and Rylie Hogan and Aiden Finch each scoring one.
The athletic Tavanae scored a game-high 17 points for Juan Diego. Sophia Lopez had a strong game down low and scored 13 points and Rhay added 10 for the Soaring Eagle.
Tooele entered play Tuesday in sixth place in Region 10, half a game behind Stansbury and Ogden for fourth place and a game behind Uintah for third. The Buffs hosted Uintah on Tuesday after press time, and will travel to Stansbury on Thursday. Tooele beat Stansbury 33-18 in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 5 in Tooele.