Taylorsville • Murray may have been the more extreme case of recent inexperience at the state tournament level — the Spartans didn’t even win a game one year ago — but Clearfield also was new to the Class 4A playoff picture Tuesday.
But the Falcons used a tenacious full-court press early to open a 12-4 lead on Murray and eventually cashed that advantage into a 50-40 opening-round victory at Salt Lake Community College.
Bailey Douglas led Clearfield (12-9) with 21 points and also used quick hands to account for five steals.
“This is great,” Douglas said. “I’ve never been here because I’m a sophomore. I was really nervous that first quarter, but you just get all the jitters out when you dive for the ball.”
Murray (13-9) cracked the scoreboard first on a shot by Brittney Golder, who finished with eight points. But the Falcons scored 12 of the next 14 points, with Douglas responsible for six of those. Her steal and short jumper with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter broke a 2-2 tie, and Clearfield never relinquished that advantage.
“That’s been our game plan [to press] all year. As you can see, we’re not the largest or biggest team,” said Clearfield coach Rebecca Packer, whose squad is in the playoffs for the first time in three years. “But our quickness is our strength.”
The Spartans got a boost when reserve Jordan Strah helped halt the early Falcons’ momentum.
Strah finished with a team-high 13 points, but the aggressiveness from her and teammate Lauren Bell came with a price. Both fouled out within a minute at the midway point of the fourth quarter after a basket by Christal Milne trimmed the Clearfield lead to six.
A put-back bucket by Falcons junior Brooklyn Durbano made the score 44-36 with 3:46 left, and Murray was unable to threaten again.
“We haven’t been here for a long time — none of these kids have been here — and I think that played a part of it,” Murray coach Lisa White said. “Those first turnovers hurt us a lot because we got down on ourselves. [Strah] was the only one attacking the basket. That’s what we had to do to get some looks at least.”
It was the first year back for White, who previously coached the Falcons for 13 seasons after a four-year absence.