The Bingham Miners find themselves in an unexpected and, frankly, somewhat unwanted situation.
When coach Rand Rasmussen surveyed the girls on his roster during those first days of the season, he saw a senior-laden squad with potential, but he never saw this coming.
Class 5A state tournament
At Salt Lake Community College
9:30 a.m. » Riverton vs. Brighton
11:10 a.m. » West vs. Davis
12:50 p.m. » Fremont vs. Viewmont
2:30 p.m. » Cottonwood vs. American Fork
4:10 p.m. » Syracuse vs. Kearns
5:50 p.m. » West Jordan vs. Bingham
7:30 p.m. » Pleasant Grove vs. Alta
9:10 p.m. » Granger vs. Layton
Twenty-one times the basketball was tossed into the air, and when the last horn had sounded, the Miners had won all 21 games in the regular season.
It’s the second time Rasmussen has coached an undefeated team. The other was the 1995 team that went 24-0 and won a state championship.
"It’s not fun. You get nervous. The kids play a little tight," Rasmussen said. "Sometimes losses kind of slap you in the face and make you pay attention to your coaching staff."
As the Miners head into the Class 5A tournament, which begins Monday at Salt Lake Community College, they will have a target on their backs.
"We’re the hunted, not the hunters," Rasmussen said.
Bingham has topped tough teams from its region, namely American Fork and Riverton. But plenty of other threats loom: Davis, Fremont, a tough Layton team coached by Van Price and a Syracuse squad that has won two of the last three tournaments.
"You’ve got 16 teams with a 0-0 record," Rasmussen said. "I hate to be cliche, but I don’t have a 21-0 record. As a coach, that’s how you have to look at it."
But the veteran coach likes his chances with the team he has.
In many ways, the Miners are the opposite of their coach, an extremely focused, intense man.
"This is a goofy group I have," Rasmussen said. "This group is talking about the Sweethearts dance and does your dress match his tie?"
The players have Wednesday spaghetti nights and regular sleepovers — "All of them, not just five or six of them."
"But when they get to the game, they’re focused," Rasmussen said. "It’s working the way they do it, so I’m not changing it."
The Miners are led by Jillian Powell, a senior who averages nearly 12.5 points per game. Powell is one of four Bingham seniors — along with Madison Aulai-Roe, Mackenzie Burggeman, and Ashton Henderon — who will play at Snow College next season.
But Rasmussen said each member of his team has been equally important, from the leading scorer down to Emily Anderson, a seldom-used reserve but a vocal leader nevertheless.
"In this day and age of statistics, sometimes it’s tough to get a team to play as a group and know their roles," Rasmussen said. "But this team has done that."
"Win or lose," he added, "it’s been tremendous."
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