Lady Hawks win enough to send them to state playoffs
By Matt Harris
MANTI—In a season dedicated to rebuilding a winning culture for North Sanpete girls basketball, the Lady Hawks aren’t done just yet.
Despite a 4-17 overall record, North Sanpete’s third region win, a 45-40 victory over Manti to end the season, was enough to send Head Coach Taylor Christensen to the playoff s in her first year.
Against Manti, the Lady Hawks improving brand of basketball was on display against the Lady Templars. North Sanpete powered its way through the first half and led by 13 points after sinking the opening shot of the third quarter.
Manti wasn’t ready to die just yet. Head Coach Brennon Schweikart forced a disruptive full-court press on the Hawks, translating into a slew of turnovers by North Sanpete just trying to get the ball up the court. On the offensive end, the Lady Templars couldn’t get shots to fall, but kept their scoring going with plenty of contact and free-throw opportunities. The Templars shaved North Sanpete’s lead to just 8 points with some key shots in the final minute of the third.
To open the fourth quarter, Manti sophomore Kassidy Alder beat her defender to nail a jumper and trim the deficit to five. North Sanpete slowly started to wear away the full-court defense by drawing contact and earning a slew of their own free shots. Both North Sanpete and Manti began to make their shots down the stretch, each team scoring over 10 points in the final quarter, but North Sanpete’s consistent lead was too much to overcome.
In the final regular season game for both teams, seniors shined as Aubree Ison of North Sanpete led all scorers with 15 points while Tiffany Peckham chipped in 12 more. Senior Ashton Wood, one of only two seniors on the Templars’ squad this season, put forth a swan song of her own, pacing Manti with 12 points.
“I cannot say enough about our seniors,” Schweikart said. “To be a senior and deal with a new coach and change of culture is really difficult. They were able to take it in stride and work to buy in. Ashton has had a great year and has improved tremendously. Her offense is on the rise, and defensively, she is putting together the technical side along with her unmatchable effort. She gave this program her everything.” The Hawks and Templars combined for 55 free throw attempts and a combined 56 percent from the line. Manti went 12-22 from the line in their final game, a common theme for the struggling Templars, Schweikart said. “You cannot win in high school basketball if you miss free throws.”
The playoff brackets are set for 3A girls hoops. North Sanpete is set to face rival Juab in the first round on Friday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Orem High School. Juab placed second in Region 14 with a 10-2 record, 15-6 overall, and trailing only Carbon, who went undefeated in region play.
Juab will enter next week’s matchup heavily favored. The Lady Wasps play a stifling brand of defense, holding opponents in region to an average of merely 27.6 points per game. They are led by senior guard Bayli Heap, averaging just over 10 points per game.
The season is over for Manti, but they look forward to an extra year of experience for a large core of underclassmen. “Often times, these young ladies were continually told what they couldn’t do,” Schweikart said. “We embraced it and learned how to fight and work to try and win. We fought and surprised a lot of people and teams…Flat out, our girls are still learning how to win.”