The Grand County girls basketball team won twice with its season on the line this week, advancing to the state quarterfinals and guaranteeing at least two more games, beating San Juan 52-50 in a Region 15 tiebreaker game in Monticello on Wednesday, Feb. 19 and beating Region 14 champion Rowland Hall 60-41 in the first round of the state playoffs on Friday, Feb. 21 at Orem High School.
The Lady Devils (14-9, 4-7 Region 15) are scheduled to play Gunnison at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield. The Bulldogs, the No. 3 seed from Region 16, advanced by defeating Millard 50-48 on Friday, Feb. 21.
The Lady Devils took it right to Rowland Hall, mounting a 10-0 lead to start the game before the Winged Lions called a timeout, Grand girls basketball coach Tony Chacon said.
“I told the girls that this week had to be their best defensive effort,” Chacon said. “We had no film or scouting, but the team with the best defense always wins. We put pressure on them immediately to get a feel for their ball handlers, which got us some turnovers early and some easy points.”
The Lady Devils led 19-6 after a quarter of play before each team scored 8 points in the second quarter to head to halftime at 27-14.
“My only complaint at halftime was that we weren’t rebounding well,” Chacon said. “I told the team if you keep giving them chance after chance, eventually they’ll capitalize and we’ll have a different outcome. They came out and did really well on the boards in the second half.”
Grand extended its lead to 42-23 after three quarters before each team scored 18 points in the fourth for the 60-41 final score. Senior Shailee Croasmun led Grand in scoring with 17 points, followed by sophomore Talaunee Croasmun with 13 and junior Sadie Hansen with 9.
“I told the girls ‘you’re going to miss every shot you don’t take,’” Chacon said. “I gave them the green light to shoot if they have an open shot and luckily we were canning them.”
Two days earlier, the Lady Devils played San Juan for the third time this season, this time for the final playoff spot. The Broncos opened up an 11-5 first-quarter lead before Grand responded to tie the game at 25 apiece before halftime.
“San Juan started off hot,” Chacon said. “I called timeout and told the girls to calm down. They’ve never been in this situation before. I asked them ‘Do you want to move on or not?’”
The Lady Devils outscored the Broncos 9-7 in the third quarter to enter the fourth with a 2-point lead. They extended the lead to as many as 8 points before San Juan rallied near the end. San Juan had the ball with a chance to tie the score or get the win in the final seconds, but Talaunee Croasmun intercepted a San Juan pass to secure the victory.
“The girls didn’t cave,” Chacon said. “They found the open person when San Juan put pressure on and canned their free throws to put it away.”
Senior Alena Geiser was the Lady Devils’ leading scorer with 12 points, while sophomores Talaunee Croasmun and Symony Call each had 11 and Shailee Croasmun had 9.
For the Lady Devils to defeat Gunnison, Chacon said they must go in with no fear.
“Gunnison is a tough team from a tough region,” he said. “Anything could happen in this game; they could blow us out, we could blow them out, or it could be a close game. Hopefully we put it together and make the community proud.”
For the Lady Devils, Chacon said, anything they accomplish the rest of this season is icing on the cake, having already met their preseason goals, but they’re going to work “extremely hard” in practice this week.
“Nobody expected Grand to do anything all year and they’re not going to start in the playoffs,” Chacon said. “You have to work for everything you get… When you don’t get any credit, you take it personally. The San Juan game is really where it started. It brought our girls closer together. They wanted to be in the state tournament.”
Chacon said his coaching staff has done a good job helping prepare the girls this season.
“It’s not always pretty, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said. “The other teams will criticize the way you do something or how you look doing it, but they’re sitting at home now.”
All four tournament qualifiers from Region 15 won decisively in their first-round games to advance to this weekend’s action in Richfield. Aside from Grand’s victory, Emery took down Rockwell 54-24, South Sevier beat Waterford 39-9 and North Sevier beat Maesar Prep 64-26. If the Lady Devils defeat Gunnison, they’ll play the winner of the game between Emery and Enterprise on Friday, Feb. 28 at 2:30 p.m. Losers of those games will play each other in the consolation round Friday, Feb. 28 at 11:10 a.m.
Big first quarter spurs Grand to playoff victory
“It’s not always pretty, but it doesn’t have to be. The other teams will criticize the way you do something or how you look doing it, but they’re sitting at home now.”