‘Brave’ girls fall in quarterfinals
The North Summit girls’ basketball team rarely saw a loss in the season leading up to the Class 2A state basketball tournament. Undefeated in Region 14 with a 16-5 record for the regular season, the Braves cranked out victory after victory with machine-like consistency, including a 67-40 blowout against Cross Creek Academy in the first round of state tournament play.
But by the quarterfinals Feb. 22, played against reigning state champion North Sevier, the North Summit Braves had run out of gas. Despite having narrowly defeated the North Sevier Wolves in the regular season, North Summit lost the second duel 35-48. The Wolves set the pace from the beginning, outscoring the Braves 12-5 in the first quarter. North Summit rallied back to within three points by the half, but the defending champs regained control in the third quarter and never looked back.
"There’s really not much to say it’s a disappointing loss," Smith said. "We were in it until halftime, but we just played flat."
Smith added that illness and injury may have heightened the Braves’ struggle as one key player recovered from appendicitis, while another, point guard Sophia Stephens, suffered a recently sprained ankle. Stephens played at what Smith called 75 percent strength, the injury didn’t seem to slow her down a bit. The sophomore pulled off one of her best games of the year, scoring 12 points, a team high and season best. The Braves’ usual high-scorer, senior Candace Smith, managed just six points against North Sevier’s ready defense. Smith, who averaged 14 points for the season, scored 26 points against Cross Creek and had reached over 30 points in recent games.
Three other seniors joined Smith on the court, all of them contributing to the final score. Monica Stephens put in four points, Angie Seright scored three and Jen Housley contributed two. The seniors have played together since elementary school, when Smith, Candace’s father, coached their recreation team.
"I’ve seen these girls since third grade," Smith said. They’ll play together one last time on Feb. 24, when they face Beaver in the consolation round for third place. After a fourth-place finish last year, the girls can still end their careers on a high note. The game will be the first between North Summit and Beaver this season, and Smith anticipates another tough match. "All the teams on our side of the bracket this year are tough, no question about it," he said. Beaver, who won four consecutive titles from 2001 to 2005, beat North Sevier in November by seven points. North Sevier, meanwhile, will go on to face Manti in the finals, also held Feb. 24.
Smith said that despite the team’s disappointing halt toward a state championship, North Summit is determined to put forth its best effort in the next round. "You get up in the morning and just keep playing," he said.
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