5A girls’ basketball: American Fork coach Clayton retires a champion

First Published      Last Updated Feb 25 2017 08:00 pm

Taylorsville • The American Fork girls' basketball team's core group has been playing together since they were in the fifth grade.

They wanted to finish their careers together with a prize they never had won — the Class 5A state championship.

But there was another motivation as well.

The final prep appearance for the seniors also was the last for Caveman coach Corey Clayton, who's retiring after a long and successful run.

"He's a heck of a coach," senior center Taylor Franson said. "He has kept the focus on all of us instead of himself all year, but we wanted to do it for him, not just us."

Since he took over, Clayton has made a specialty of identifying talented players early and then carefully fostering their development.

His methods produced American Fork's first girls' championship team in the sport in 2009.

Two of several players from that squad who went on to collegiate careers came back this season to join Clayton's staff as assistants — Haley Holmstead and Kaycee Mansfield.

The players said they drew inspiration from them as well as Clayton, but they knew that he also had helped develop those older players.

"He's just been phenomenal to work with these past four years," said senior guard Taylor Moeaki, who was named the tournament MVP. "Whether we won or lost today, I couldn't have asked for a better experience than what I've had with him."

She added that the preparation for today's contest was all business.

"This whole week we've just been focusing on one game at a time," Moeaki said. "There was a moment in the locker room when we knew what we had to do to win this game, and we just went out and did it."

Franson agreed that the team was well aware of what they would have to do to beat Viewmont. Preparation is one of Clayton's strongest skills.

"We definitely wanted to have as much fun as possible, but we also wanted to get it done," she said. "Our game plan was to come out and stick it to them, and we did."

"If you're going to go out, it doesn't get any better than that," Clayton said.