The ball rolled off Madison Grange’s fingers, and she watched its arc toward the hoop in excitement.
With a swish, her 3-point shot secured the win against an opponent she never before had defeated in almost a decade of competition: her dad.
“It was close,” she said. “I’ll give him that.”
That same fundamentally sound shot that earned her the first one-on-one-victory over her father, Chad Grange, only has continued to improve in the two years since. It, along with strides in her defense, helped Skyline shooting guard Madison Grange secure a place on the Class 4A all-state first team last year after the Eagles’ state championship victory.
“We know that we have a target on our back as state champions,” Grange said. “… Our motto is unite to fight.”
Grange has a habit of working on skills outside of practice, and that started with working out with her father as a kid. They’d go to the church gym to get in extra reps. Chad was a high school basketball player himself, and Madison describes him as “my mentor since Day 1.”
Early on, when she was about 8 or 9 years old, Madison had to choose between club soccer and club basketball. She went with basketball, and the Utah Valley University commit said she’s glad she did.
“I’ve always had a passion for this game,” she said. “Watching WNBA players, I’ve just always wanted to be like them.”
Grange already had developed good shooting form by the time she reached high school, Skyline coach Lynette Schroeder said. Grange sat on the bench on the varsity team her freshman year. Skyline made it to the state championship game but lost 43-32 to Sky View that year.
Grange was a much more well-rounded player when she returned to the state title game two years later.
“I remember when she came in as a freshman and struggled to know the basic concepts of man-to-man defense,” Schroeder said, “and now she’s our best defender.”
On top of learning the concepts, Grange grew 2 to 3 inches between her sophomore and junior year, giving her the advantage of added length.
Skyline needed that to come from behind and beat Timpview 52-45 in the state semifinals last season.
“We came out in that second half and we put on a press,” Schroeder said. “And she’s the first defender that they have to go through. So if she does her job then she makes it easy for the rest of her teammates. So that really is what was the catalyst to us turning around that game and winning the semifinal game.”
Then Grange scored 16 points to help Skyline to a 60-57 overtime win in the title game against Judge Memorial.
“There was a lot of pressure, but that didn’t get to me,” Grange said. “And that was something I took pride in. But also my teammates — they helped me stay positive when things weren’t going well. It was a really crowded environment, it was loud, but being able to be on the court was such a great experience for me.”
Now Skyline has its sights set on returning in Grange’s last year playing high school basketball.
Last season’s Class 5A champion, American Fork, graduated eight seniors, including scoring leader Taylor Moeaki (18.6 points per game). Moeaki also grabbed and team-high average of 7.4 rebounds per game. The Cavemen likely will lean on junior Addie Holmstead, who averaged 8.8 points per game last season, for scoring power, and senior Savana Stephenson, who averaged 3.7 rebounds per game, to set an example on the boards. Sky View, which lost to Viewmont in the state semifinal by two points last year, was hit even harder by graduation. It essentially will have to piece together a new starting lineup. Copper Hills, which also suffered a narrow state semifinals defeat, is in a good position to make another state tournament run after graduating just four seniors. The young team should be able to build off of its success last year.
Viewmont, which finished as the state runner-up in Class 5A last year, will compete against competition that for the most part was in a smaller classification last season. Mercedes Staples returns for her senior season after leading the team in scoring (18.1 points per game) as a junior. The Vikings come armed with veteran leadership with seven seniors on the roster this season. They will have defending Class 4A state champion Skyline as competition. The Eagles also return their scoring leader, Madison Grange (16.4 ppg). For Box Elder, which lost to Judge Memorial, the graduation of scoring leader Kelsee Stevenson (15.5 ppg) leaves a hole to fill, but the Bees return multi-tooled player Emily Isaacson. The junior led the team with 7 rebounds per game and added 14.5 points per game last year. Juan Diego, which won the Class 3A state title last year, will have the challenge of competing in Class 5A this season.
With Juan Diego jumping up to Class 5A, last season’s Class 3A runner-up, Richfield, won’t have to worry about facing the Soaring Eagle in the playoffs again this year. The Wildcats graduated just three seniors last year, and their roster features seven returning upperclassmen. Carbon and Morgan, which both made it to the Class 3A state semifinals last year, stayed in 3A, which removed them from the competition for the 4A title as well. The realignment may play in Mountain View’s favor since it remains in Class 4A. The Bruins finished first in their region last year but lost to East in the first round of playoffs. Lavender Briggs (17 points per game, 7 rebounds per game) and Tahlia White (15.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) stood out last year as a sophomore and junior, respectively.
Judge Memorial, last season’s Class 4A state runner-up, moved down to Class 3A for this season. The Bulldogs pushed the title game into overtime before falling to Skyline by three points last year. Carbon and Morgan, which both made it to the state semifinals last year, will remain in Class 3A this season. The Dinos graduated eight seniors last year, but they did return Kelsey Sorenson, who ranked second on the team in points (8.4), rebounds (4.4) and assists (2.4) per game. The Trojans’ roster is stocked full of upperclassmen to help fill the hole left by star Brookeyln Hurlbut. They include Jalyn Van Dyke (11.5 points per game), Marcie Stapley (9 rebounds per game) and Jaci Jensen (2.6 assists per game). Emery, the runner-up in Class 2A last year, will be tested against teams with experience in larger classifications.
North Sevier returns to Class 2A this season to defend its state title. The Wolves edged out region rival Emery, 49-45, in the state final. This year, however, Emery has moved up to Class 3A. North Sevier’s Peyton Torgerson won’t be back after logging 18 points, nine rebounds and five steals in the championship game last year. Also returning to Class 2A will be Beaver and Kanab. Beaver placed third in the state last year, while Kanab finished in fourth. Beaver returns with a vengeance after falling to Emery by two points in the state semifinals. Kanab easily glided through the first two rounds of the playoffs before meeting North Sevier in the state semifinals, where it lost 69-55. North Summit, San Juan, Layton Christian and Enterprise also reached the state quarterfinals last year. All but San Juan, which jumped to Class 3A, will return to Class 2A this season.
Realignment did little to shake up the Class 1A competition. Every team that made it to the state semifinals remained in Class 1A. Bryce Valley returns looking to defend its title after a stunning come-from-behind overtime win over Tabiona in the state championship last year. The Mustangs graduated Danielle Brinkerhoff and Samantha Chynoweth, who both made the Class 1A all-tournament team last year. Karleen Roundy also made the team as a sophomore last season, putting up 11 points in the title game. Losing by one point in the state championship game should serve as ample motivation for Tabiona. Panguitch, which took third place, and Monticello, which finished fourth in the Class 1A tournament, could prove to be tough competition.