Taylorsville • Kemery Martin launched a 3-pointer from the left corner, and the ball took two big bounces off the rim before settling into the net. She smiled.
The shot in the second quarter Tuesday was a sign that this year’s first-round game of the Class 5A state tournament would turn out better for Corner Canyon High School. Having absorbed a major upset last February, the Chargers opened the 2019 event with a 62-48 win over Springville, with Martin producing 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
The Draper school will play Farmington in Thursday’s quarterfinals at Salt Lake Community College. Martin is seeking a strong ending of her prep career, on her way to the Utah women’s basketball program as a prized recruit who scored 47 points in one recent game and 36 in another.
“I'm just super excited to get there, so I can help them do what they're already starting to do,” Martin said of the Utes, who began the season 18-1 with a No. 14 ranking, before absorbing six straight losses.
At Salt Lake Community College
Skyridge vs. Murray, 2:30 p.m.
Farmington vs. Corner Canyon, 4:10 p.m.
East vs. Provo, 5:50 p.m.
Wasatch vs. Box Elder, 7:30 p.m.
As a five-star prospect (ESPN.com) and a Utahn, the 6-foot guard represents a recruiting breakthrough for Utah coach Lynne Roberts, in multiple ways. The pursuit began in 2015, when Martin (pronounced mar-TEEN) was a rising freshman at Alta High and played in a tournament in Arizona.
“I watched her warm up for about 30 seconds, and I said, 'We've got to get that kid.' I'm not kidding,” Roberts said. “I watched her warm up and thought, that kid is special.”
That's a plausible story.
As the Chargers walk into the gym, picking out the future Pac-12 player among them is not easy. Yet all it takes is one leisurely drive through the layup line for Martin to distinguish herself, beyond her florescent shoes. She glides around the court in the effortless style that Frank Jackson once showed at Lone Peak, on his way to Duke and the NBA.
As Roberts continued the recruitment story, “And so I put it on our staff: ‘Does everyone understand? We have to get her here.’ ”
Roberts figured Martin would attend a Pac-12 school — USC, Oregon State and Washington were among the other finalists — and she didn’t want to coach against her twice a year.
“She's going to be a special player in this conference, for sure,” Roberts said.
Reminded of those stories, Martin said, “It's been kind of a blessing that they want me as bad as they do. That's what you want to hear. So it's been great.”
Through “the ups and downs that come with every team,” Martin said her senior season has been rewarding. “This group of girls has been special because they’ve been able to overcome, and kind of learn from their mistakes each game. … I’m proud of these girls because they’re really, like, good listeners, and they go practice hard.”
Martin played two years at Alta with her sister Mariah, now playing for Dixie State University. As a Corner Canyon senior, she has averaged 21.4 points and 4.9 assists, with inconsistent shooting. She got hot against Brighton, making nine 3-pointers during a 47-point night when she passed up some shots late in the game or she “easily could have scored 60,” Corner Canyon coach Jeramy Acker said.
Compared with last year's veteran team that was upset by Highland in the first round, suffering a 20-percent shooting night, this year's Chargers are young. Even so, they tied for first place in Region 7 and Acker said, “We've got a shot in every game, because she's that special. Utah's getting a player that's at that level right now, ready to go. We just can't wait to watch her do more.”
And then, remembering how soon last February’s state tournament ended for the Chargers, Acker smiled and said, “And we’re excited that it’s not one-and-done this year.”