Despite loss in opening round of state playoffs, Park City enters the offseason full of optimism
It was a long season for Brett Isaacson and the Park City girls basketball team.
But despite their 2-20 record, the positives far outweigh the negatives considering Isaacson believes that not only are the Miners in a better spot than they were a year ago, they’ve finally settled on an identity for their team.
“I think as the year went along, we came in with a certain way of wanting to play the game but it wasn’t working so we had to adapt and change things up,” Isaacson said. “Now at the end of the year, we have definitely found what we want and who we are. It’s hard to win without an identity, and that’s part of why we struggled. … But that shouldn’t be a problem anymore with what we’ve discovered.”
Isaacson originally entered the season thinking the team needed to play fast on offense and cause mayhem on defense to help overcome the deficiencies they had skill and talent-wise.
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But that wasn’t the way to go as Park City found itself routinely losing games by 40-50 points, with the games effectively being over at the end of the opening quarter.
So Isaacson was forced to change from his full-court “mayhem” press and settled on a trapping 1-2-2 half-court defense. This helped utilize Park City’s athleticism in a more efficient way without spreading themselves too thin. Offensively Park City slowed things down and went with a spread-and-screen concept instead of constantly forcing the tempo.
This was all validated on Tuesday night during the opening round of the UHSAA Class 5A state playoffs. Park City entered matchup against No. 6 Salem Hills as the No. 27 seed, having already faced them twice in regular season and losing by an average of 36 points.
But that wasn’t the case on Tuesday.
Isaacson and the Miners played one of their best games of the season before falling 56-39 in the end.
“They were all pissed that we lost, because honestly we thought we were going to win,” Isaacson said. “We watched highlights of the top NCAA tournament upsets and the final scene of Hoosiers for inspiration before the game and it worked. If we just could’ve hit a few more shots I have no doubt we could’ve pulled it out.”
If not for a rough last three minutes in the third quarter when Park City was outscored 11-0, the game was tight throughout. The Miners were outscored by just six points combined in the first, second and fourth quarters, and a massive turnaround from the previous two meetings.
“We were super poised and played super confidently in the face of adversity,” Isaacson said. “We went up 3-0 and then fell behind after they scored 10 in a row, but we kept cutting and moving and sticking with the game plan. We fought through so much to battle back and play hard, and I couldn’t be more proud of the girls.”
Although Park City lost, Isaacson feels validated knowing that their new identity kept them in the game against a superior opponent, something he believes Park City can build off of after improving throughout the season.
And he wasn’t the only one to notice.
“The record doesn’t say it but we know how much we got better. … And the biggest compliment was that other people were noticing also,” Isaacson said. “Our parents noticed of course, but when opposing coaches and parents came up to me and couldn’t believe how much we improved, that was amazing to hear. We are on track to be so much better next season and that’s super encouraging to have at the end of the year.”
With the offseason now here, Isaacson is fully committed to getting the girls as much playing time as possible. He plans on entering his team into as many spring, summer and fall leagues and tournaments as possible — knowing that the best thing for his team is just getting more and more experience.
Throughout the tribulations faced, the Miners never gave up one another or themselves. And that is what Isaacson is most proud of — so getting the girls more time on the court combined with their resiliency and fight, big things are expected next season.
“We had so many chances to just pack it in but they didn’t. … They kept showing up and putting in the effort and never folded in the end,” Isaacson said. “I wish it was still going and we got more wins, but the bottom line is that they got better. If we make tow more shots per quarter and four more free throws a game, that’s 20 points and we will be winning. … So there’s not reason we can’t compete.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.