It’s just the beginning, but Springville’s Malia Nawahine already has her sights set on the end.
After reaching — and losing — the championship game each of the past two years — as a sophomore in San Diego and last year in the Class 4A state tournament — Nawahine is working toward a different end result.
“I’m tired of losing at the very end,” the senior said Tuesday before the Red Devils’ season-opening 59-50 victory at Alta. “Winning would be nice.”
Springville certainly seems ready and able to make another run at the state title. After coming up short against Timpanogos last year, the Red Devils return five seniors and three juniors from a team that finished 14-11 and fourth in a stacked Region 8.
Leading the way is Nawahine, a 5-foot-10 guard/forward who committed to the University of Utah last month. Nawahine, who transferred from Southern California’s Cathedral Catholic in 2011, led the Red Devils with more than 18 points per game a season ago.
This time around, she and coach Nancy Warner expect more attention from opposing defenses. Alta had little answer for Nawahine, who scored a game-high 29 points before fouling out with less than two minutes to play Tuesday.
“Coach talked to me about that, expecting double teams and defenses focusing on me,” Nawahine said. “That has a lot to do with my teammates stepping up. And they have been in practice. We’ve all been working really hard, and I think we’ll do well.”
Added Warner: “We talked about how it’s not just one person who gets the job done for us. Everybody needs to be ready to step up at any time when needed.”
The supporting cast must step in when scoring is needed. Junior guard Savannah Park, the Red Devils’ second-leading scorer at more than 10 points per game a season ago, sat Tuesday night because of a knee injury.
Senior guard Hannah Packard scored 13 points and junior center Brooke Wheeler added 11 points Tuesday, a good sign that Springville has options should Nawahine not find room to operate.
But that didn’t happen much last year. Nawahine scored in double figures 23 times in 25 games, including 18 points in the state title game.
Warner said she anticipated the offense will run through her star again this season.
“She definitely has a knack for scoring and the ability to score,” Warner said. “Any time you have a scorer like that, you’re going to look to her for that offensive spark. We look to her for that intensity and that leadership.”
Nawahine said she has plenty of room to improve her game before joining the Utes next fall. She wants to improve her ball handling, and perhaps more importantly, she wants to work on being a leader.
“I’m a senior now, and I need to play like a leader on the court,” Nawahine said.
Top players to watch in 2012-13
Ashley Baugh, Sr., American Fork • Strong player who gives the Cavemen post presence
Cassidy Fraughton, Sr., American Fork • A shooter who can get to the free throw line as well
Courtney Starks, Sr., Syracuse • A tough post who outmuscles opponents for rebounds and points
Erin Reichle, Sr., Weber • Leader and playmaker for the Warriors on their run to the finals
Malia Nawahine, Sr., Springville • Versatile wing who can shoot but doesn’t shy from physicality
Eternity Galeai, Jr., Timpanogos • Top double-double threat who boasts a lot of experience
Rachel VanderToolen, Jr., Olympus • Quick for her size, and has a habit of drilling clutch 3s
Emilie Volk, Sr., Bonneville • Has some of the best hands in the state and can drive in confidently
Amy Harris, Sr., Snow Canyon • A BYU signee who led the Warriors to a state championship
Rebecca MaWhinney, Sr., Wasatch • A tough matchup because of her height and ability
Malia Nawahine file
• Springville senior scored 29 points in a season-opening victory at Alta on Tuesday night.
• She averaged 18 points per game a season ago and led the Red Devils to the Class 4A championship game.
• Nawahine, who moved to Utah from Southern California after her sophomore year, has committed to play at the University of Utah next year.