Junior Talaunee Croasmun attempts a layup versus Wasatch Academy on Saturday, Jan. 17. Croasmun struggled shooting for most of the night before scoring 12 fourth-quarter points to finish with 16 in the 40-28 victory. [Photo by Tim Chappell / Moab Sun News]

The Lady Red Devils played tough and played as a team, helping them begin their Region 15 slate with victories over San Juan and Wasatch Academy, as well as a non-region win at Green River.

The Red Devils, who were picked by the Deseret News to finish last in Region 15, had a team meeting shortly after the Winter Break was over, which coach Tony Chacon said made a world of difference.

“I told the team if we were going to compete, if we wanted to go to state, we had to work harder, and we had to play more as a team,” he said. “We also changed our philosophy from offense to defense because defense wins games and championships – your offense doesn’t do any good if you can’t stop anybody.”

With a renewed defensive intensity and tenacity, the Lady Red Devils came out on their home floor against San Juan on Tuesday, Jan. 13 and held the Broncos to 31 points, including only one quarter in which they scored in double digits.

Junior Talaunee Croasmun, who currently ranks No. 3 in 2A in scoring at 15.4 points per game, led the way both offensively and defensively versus the Broncos, scoring a team-leading 18 points and getting steals at crucial points in the game.

“Her defense was stellar,” Chacon said. “When she’s on, she’s on on both ends of the floor. Every time San Juan started to get anything going, she’d get a steal and take the momentum back for us.”

Senior Brook Schultz scored eight points versus the Broncos, while junior Symony Call added six, junior Madi Jones had five and senior Sadie Hansen had four. Chacon said he believes the team is at its best when it’s getting offensive contributions from several players.

“Instead of Talaunee scoring 26 points, I’d rather she score about 16-to-18 points while our other starters score 6-to-10 points.”

The Lady Red Devils struggled from the line versus San Juan, converting on just five of 18 opportunities.

On Friday, Jan. 16, the Lady Red Devils traveled to Green River and opened strong against the Pirates, jumping out to a 19-10 halftime lead despite a majority of the team suffering from illness, Chacon said. The Pirates rallied in the second half, outscoring Grand in both the third and fourth quarters, but the Lady Red Devils hung on for the 39-35 victory.

“As long as I’ve been coaching, I’ve never had a team that has been able to dominate Green River in Green River,” Chacon said. “We knew they were going to make a run, we just didn’t know when. We didn’t shoot well, but we made shots when it mattered so we were able to stay 4-to-8 points ahead.”

Key factors in Grand eking out the victory were that the Lady Red Devils only committed two fouls in the entire second half, and the fourth-quarter scoring from Schultz, who scored all eight of her points in the final frame. Croasmun scored 12 points to lead the team, while Call added nine, Jones added six and Hansen added four.

“It’s big when someone steps up strong in the fourth quarter after struggling offensively the rest of the game,” Chacon said.

The Lady Red Devils again struggled with free throws, converting only six of 13.

The following afternoon versus Wasatch Academy, the Tigers had shots falling early on as they jumped out to an 11-8 lead on the Lady Red Devils’ home floor. Grand forged ahead as Wasatch Academy went cold in a low-scoring second quarter, with the Lady Red Devils claiming a 14-13 lead at intermission.

Grand continued to key on Tigers senior Danielle Christian and junior Duda Galvao, who are both listed at 5 feet, 10 inches tall, double-teaming them whenever they received the ball inside. The Lady Red Devils, however, continued to struggle in their own right offensively, only adding two points to their slim lead to enter the fourth quarter at 24-21.

In the decisive frame, Croasmun came alive on the offensive end, scoring 12 of her team-leading 16 points, including 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line, to keep Grand ahead and extend the lead. The Lady Red Devils only shot eight free throws, but they made all of them, including six in the final minute of play, to seal the win. The Lady Red Devils didn’t shoot a free throw until there was 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. Hansen was also 4-of-4 from the line, finishing with 14 points.

“Sadie was big for us offensively the whole game; she kept us ahead when we weren’t hitting our shots,” Chacon said.

Chacon said perfection from the line was key in helping the Lady Red Devils maintain the lead, as well as the offensive adjustment to spread the floor and make the Tigers chase the ball.

“I told them to spread out of offense – we were sometimes holding the ball clear out by half-court – and make them chase us,” he said. “I also told Talaunee to take inside the arc since her threes weren’t falling, and she listened and responded.”

The Lady Red Devils were scheduled to play Emery in their first region road game on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The Spartans entered the game as a clear-cut region favorite with a 3-0 region mark and a 7-4 overall mark. Three of Emery’s four losses were to teams 3A or higher in classification, while their only 2A loss came to Region 13-leading Delta, which boasts an 11-1 record.

The Lady Red Devils’ next two outings are home games versus South Sevier on Friday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., and North Sevier on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 4:30 p.m.

“I can’t even put into words how important those first two region wins are,” Chacon said. “The Deseret News picked us to finish last and I showed that to the team. I told them we’ve got nothing to lose and no one expects anything from us.”

Chacon said that the Lady Red Devils’ plan for continued success is to share the ball, rebound and continue to emphasize defense.

“We’re looking to sneak up on someone,” he said. “We’ll see whether or not it happens, but if it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of effort.”

Team meeting spurs turnaround for Lady Red Devils, coach says

“I can’t even put into words how important those first two region wins are. The Deseret News picked us to finish last and I showed that to the team. I told them we’ve got nothing to lose and no one expects anything from us.”

What : Grand girls basketball versus South Sevier

Grand girls basketball versus North Sevier

When: Friday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 24, 4:30 p.m.

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