Highland pulls off monster upset of Corner Canyon in first round

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corner Canyon Chargers Kemery Martin (15) brings the ball down court on a Charger fast break, in Class 5A women's basketball playoff game between Corner Canyon and Highland, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.

Taylorsville • Somewhere hidden in the depths of the Region 6 girls’ basketball standings was a giant-killer.

The Highland Rams may not have looked like one against top-ranked East or defending state champion Skyline, but they used games against those teams to prep for their biggest win of the season.

And that happened near the end of the first day of the Class 5A state tournament Monday.

In an opening round full of upsets, Highland took down second-ranked Corner Canyon 51-45 at Salt Lake Community College.

“We knew we could win. Nobody else did, but we did,” said Highland guard Olivia Beckstead, who finished with 14 points. “We knew we had this game and we just came out and played the way we knew we could play.”

Highland (12-11) became the third No. 4 seed to upend a region winner. The Rams entered the postseason by beating West, the Region 6 third-place team, on the road then losing by three at Skyline.

Beckstead hit a pair of 3-point shots in the first six minutes of the game to go with two treys from Taryn Johnson as the Rams went up 16-5 early.

For the junior Beckstead, the early big shots didn’t build confidence for Highland. It was a matter of building on something that was already there.

“I think we knew from the beginning,” she said. “And that’s why we hit those shots.”

Corner Canyon (20-3), on the other hand, struggled mightily and found itself down 31-14 late in the first half. While junior standout Kemery Martin had difficulty finding her shot, it was senior Annie Bowen and a pressure full-court defense that spearheaded a Chargers’ comeback.

Bowen finished with 15 points, while Martin and Vaifanua both added a dozen.

Corner Canyon closed the gap to only one on two occasions early in the fourth quarter as Highland fought tooth-and-nail just to get the ball over the midcourt line.

The second instance came when Martin popped a corner 3-pointer to make the score 44-43.

Highland responded when Misini Fifita hit her only 3 of the night to put the lead back to four with 1:25 on the clock.

“I was open, so I just took the chance and made it,” Fifita said. “I saw her [a Corner Canyon defender] go by. I just tried to shoot it before she came up to me.”

Highland was led by Kaija Glasker’s 17 points as the Rams move into the quarterfinal round Wednesday.

“We weathered the storm. Like I told them in the third quarter, ‘You took their best punch. We played really bad basketball for eight minutes and you’re still in the lead,’” Highland caoch Kurt Schneider said. ”‘Let’s go out and finish it up.’ And that’s what they did.”

HIGHLAND 51, CORNER CANYON 45 <br>• Highland jumps to a 23-8 lead early in the second quarter to jumpstart the upset. <br>• Kaija Glasker leads Highland with 17 points, while Olivia Beckstead adds 14. <br>• It was the third defeat of a region top seed on the opening day of the Class 5A tournament as Springville (vs. Roy) and Box Elder (vs. Skyridge) also ended the season of favored squads.