GUNNISON—Coming off a road win at North Sanpete High School two weeks ago, the Gunnison Valley Lady Bulldogs basketball team improved to 3-0 with wins against 2A Freedom Prep Academy, 49-13, and 3A American Leadership Academy, 48-40.
Senior guard Kayzia Caldwell set the offensive tone against Freedom (0-2) with an immediate catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to open the game. Freedom’s full-court press could not stop sophomore point guard Rilee Dyreng from bringing the ball up for the Bulldogs, and the home team scored some transition layups early on.
Gunnison Valley Coach Melissa Sorensen said the offensive efficiency still left room for improvement in the first half.
“We got off to a little slow of a start, I don’t know if it was nerves or people not being in the gym,” Sorensen said, referring to the small crowd due to COVID-19 rules. She called the second half one of the more exciting ones she had coached, though, and commended her team’s play overall in the game.
Midway through the first quarter, the Eagles hardly got a chance to run their press, simply because they could not score. Sophomore center Tameryn Koford of Freedom hit a free throw with 1:13 left in the second quarter to end a scoring drought of more than 10 minutes to give her team its seventh point. Ford scored 11 of her team’s 13 total points on the night.
In the meantime, aggressive ball movement all over the floor by Dyreng, Caldwell and senior guard Naomi Willden gave the Bulldogs open jumpers and layups throughout the first half. They converted enough of them to give themselves a comfortable 24-9 lead at the half.
The hometown girls only came out stronger in the third quarter, playing fast and confident in front of their home crowd. The offense ran through Dyreng, who scored nine in the quarter on 3/3 free throw shooting and distributed the ball to teammates making cuts.
With this offensive burst and another defensive suffocation in the third, the Bulldogs found themselves up 41-11 at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter saw more action from non-starters, including two baskets by sophomore guard Cadence Belnap, one off of a tough layup with a foul called.
Gunnison Valley would go on to win the game 49-13. Dyreng led scoring with 17, followed by junior Raven Pickett with eight.
Against American Leadership Academy (2-1), Sorensen said she was proud of the way her “undersized” team rebounded and competed with larger players.
“It was competitive. They played well, they shared the ball well,” she said.
The Bulldogs took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter, improved it to 18-14 at the half and controlled the second half to finish the game up 48-40. Dyreng led all stat categories with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Willden had 11 points and seven assists, and Pickett had 12 points.
Sorensen said these new leaders are stepping up well so far this year. None of this year’s roster were starters last year.
“Naomi Willden makes sure things are organized. Raven Pickett talks well,” Sorensen said.
The game the team was supposed to play on Thursday was cancelled because of COVID-19 protocol on the end of would-be opponent Draper. In its place, Sorensen scheduled a game against Ben Lomond next Friday, a team that also saw their game originally slated for this week cancelled.
After this week, the team will play Beaver next on Tuesday, Dec. 22, which the coach said would be “a big test.” Following that game, they will face defending champions Millard.