Girls' basketball: Syracuse leads pack of 5A contenders
It's not a secret who the favorite is in the Class 5A girls' basketball tournament. All you have to do is ask any one of the coaches.
"I think Syracuse is head and shoulders above anyone else I've seen this year," Riverton coach Ron Ence says. "I'm not the only one who shares that view."
But do the Titans believe they're the favorites? They haven't lost a regular-season game in three years, they boast one of the best girls' basketball prospects Utah has ever produced, and they have been to the finals each of the past two seasons, winning in 2010.
But it's 2011's result that still haunts them, stopping them from even now believing that they're going to romp in the postseason.
"I wouldn't say we're the favorite I think we've got as good a chance as anybody," Syracuse Rob Reisbeck says. "After the way the season ended last year, we worked really hard at fine-tuning everything. We've been concentrating on not taking any opponent lightly."
To this point, the Titans haven't taken anyone lightly. They've beaten opponents by an average of 28 points per game, and no one has gotten within double digits. No one has broken down their fearsome fullcourt press, or been able to stop Brittney Martin, Makenlee Williams and a number of other strong contributors on offense.
But Syracuse has reason not to overlook the field. Alta, which beat them last year in the final, is in the Titans' half of the bracket. The Hawks graduated a lot of talent and had a rocky preseason, but they followed up with an undefeated region schedule. Most importantly, Alta still has Makenzi Morrison, the senior guard who is leading the league in scoring.
Some strong teams will come from Syracuse's region as well. Layton has lost only to the Titans this year, and the Lancers could make an all-Region 1 final. Weber should also pose a major threat to anyone it draws in the bracket.
Riverton also looks to be a power. The Silverwolves won an outright title in arguably the state's toughest region. Riverton has no prototypical star players but a strong ensemble of role players who are well-rounded. Ence says his biggest emphasis is "make a contribution," and the girls have answered the call.
"You don't have to contribute just by scoring: get a rebound, make a steal, just do something," he says. "It's turned out well, because every player makes their minutes valuable. There are lots of ways to contribute."
Despite winning a No. 1 seed, Taylorsville might be considered a dark horse coming out of a weak region. But coach Vicky Bohney believes her group can compete with the best. Alta and Syracuse trounced the Warriors earlier this season, but the team has rallied around its new coach and now seems determined to prove they belong.
" 'Become one and defeat all,' kind of became our motto," Bohney says. "The challenge was the mental side, if we could be tough enough to win our games. I think we've showed in region that we're keeping up the intensity, and all we've been doing is getting prepared."
Class 5A girls' basketball tournament
at Salt Lake Community College
First-round schedule (All games on Tuesday)
9:30 a.m. • Lone Peak vs. Kearns
11:10 a.m. • Syracuse vs. Copper Hills
12:50 p.m. • Alta vs. Davis
2:30 p.m. • Hunter vs. American Fork
4:10 p.m. • Layton vs. West Jordan
5:50 p.m. • Riverton vs. Granger
7:30 p.m. • Taylorsville vs. Bingham
9:10 p.m. • Brighton vs. Weber