The Grand County girls basketball team notched two more victories this week, defeating Wasatch Academy 54-40 in their region opener in the Devils’ Den on Thursday, Jan. 9 before traveling to Price to defeat Pinnacle Academy 49-21 in a non-region game on Saturday, Jan. 11.

The Tigers and the Lady Devils played a close game for most of the first half Thursday before Grand went on a 9-3 run to end the first half with a 23-15 lead. Sophomore Talaunee Croasmun came off the bench to score 12 of her team-leading 16 points in the first half, including 9 in the second quarter to fuel Grand to the advantage. She had 3 steals in the half, taking two of them back coast to coast for easy layups.

“It’s a real benefit for us to have Talaunee coming off the bench as a sophomore,” Grand girls basketball coach Tony Chacon said. “She is a strong defender and can put up points quickly.”

Croasmun said she read the ball-handler’s eyes in order to jump in front of passes for easy baskets.

“They would look away to fake, but they would look back to where they were passing so I knew where the ball was going,” she said.

Croasmun said it was important to pick up the win in the region opener to set the tone for the rest of the season.

“It was very important for us to come out with intensity to start off region play,” she said.

The Tigers were tenacious in their defense of senior Shailee Croasmun, who leads the team and ranks third in 2A with 16.1 points per game, holding her to 9 points and 5 assists. Chacon said it was important to have other players step up and do some scoring.

“We don’t want the other team to just key on Shailee; we need a few other players to put up 8-10 points every game to open up the defense. Having Talaunee as a sophomore was such a benefit and Brook (Schultz) and Sadie (Hansen) stepped up as well.”

Schultz, a junior, had 8 points and 5 rebounds, while Hansen, also a junior, scored 11 points, including 8 in the third quarter as Grand expanded its lead to 41-25

“We put a lot of emphasis on coming out strong in the second half each and every game because the team that has a strong second half is usually the team that wins the game,” Chacon said. “Sadie had a big third quarter for us and really helped us set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Wasatch Academy’s Keyani Rivera scored 24 points in the losing effort to lead all scorers, which Chacon said he was okay with.

“She’s a good scorer; even when we double teamed her, she was making shots” he said. “We could live with her getting her 20-plus points, but we couldn’t let the other players score.”

The Lady Devils (8-2, 1-0 Region 15) shot a dismal 6-for-16 from the free-throw line against the Tigers, which Chacon said they must improve before it costs them games as the season progresses.

“We’re working on it,” he said. “At the beginning of the season we were at 60-70 percent but we’ve been much worse the last few games. I think we’re just tired and lose concentration; when you play defense as hard as these girls do, you become gassed. It just comes down to repetition-repetition-repetition. We’ve got to shoot better at the line because if not, it’s going to cost us some games later on.”

The Lady Devils shot an improved 11-of-19 from the line against Pinnacle, whom they outscored 29-3 in the first half, putting a defensive stamp on the game early on, Chacon said.

“Our goal was to trap every thing under the line and when they reversed court, there was a big there to steal it and take it the other way for an easy basket.”

Shailee Croasmun scored 12 points as Pinnacle, while Talaunee Croasmun added 9, Hansen and sophomore Madi Jones scored 8, Schultz scored 4 and sophomores Symony Call and Lauren Drake each scored 2.

“It was nice for us to put the game out of reach early,” Chacon said. “The starters didn’t play much in the seoond half, which got some of younger players some good experience. It’s nice to get some of our back-ups more playing time.”

Grand was also scheduled to play a region game against San Juan in Blanding on Tuesday, Jan. 14. They’re scheduled to return home to play against region-foe Emery on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. before hitting the road again for region games against South Sevier on Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m., in Monroe and against North Sevier on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 4:30 p.m., in Salina.

“It’s good for us to be sitting at 8-2 and flying under the radar,” Chacon said. “Our goal for the season was to finish at .500; everything else is just icing on the cake. Nobody expects Grand to do anything this year and we like it that way. We can make a real dent in the playoffs this year. If we play strong defense, anything can happen.”

Talaunee Croasmun shared her coach’s confidence in the team’s potential.

“I feel like we can beat any team if we play as a team and play good defense,” she said.

Red Devils beat Wasatch and Pinnacle

“It was very important for us to come out with intensity to start off region play.”

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 21

Where: Grand County High School, 608 S. 400 East