Miners earn comeback win over Kearns in season opener
Park City’s defense limits Kearns to 10 points in 2nd half
Sometimes basketball is a game of inches, and on Tuesday night, a few inches went the Park City girls team’s way to give the Miners their first win of the season.
With 10 seconds left in their game against Kearns and the Miners up by one point, senior Sam Riely missed the second free throw of a one-and-one. Kearns grabbed the rebound, dribbled the ball down the court and attempted a last-second shot to win the game. The shot rattled around the rim and rolled out, giving the Miners a 30-29 win at home.
“It was just one of those games where we got the roll we wanted, and they came out with a win,” Park City coach Brett Isaacson said. “We’ve got to make more shots, we can’t average 30 a game and expect to win a ton of league games. But offense will come, I’m excited.”
Park City had some opening-game jitters early and struggled to make shots despite having some open looks. The Miners trailed 10-0 at one point in the first quarter and 13-5 by the end of the period.
The Miners’ biggest strength on Tuesday was their defense. Isaacson made a couple of adjustments after Kearns’ 13 points, dropping Park City’s high post defender a little lower and extending the Miners’ 2-3 zone defense higher toward the 3-point line. Kearns hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Isaacson wanted his defenders to close out more on those outside shots. The adjustments worked, as Kearns scored just 16 points the rest of the game.
“We pretty much extended our zone and said, ‘Just close out on shooters and make them drive into the teeth of the zone,’ and it worked,” Isaacson said. “We gave up (two) more 3s the rest of the way and just clamped down and then rebounded the hell out of the ball.”
Rebounds and limiting turnovers are points of emphasis for Isaacson, and the Miners dominated the glass. Isaacson’s goal for the Miners is to rebound the ball on defense at a 70% clip, and Park City was at 77% on Tuesday night. Turnovers were an issue, but Isaacson still saw improvement on that end.
“Our focus has been rebounding and turnovers, and both of those improved,” Isaacson said. “And hopefully we’ll start making more shots as the season goes on.”
The Miners struggled offensively, but they found their groove in the second quarter with 12 points to trail just 19-17 at halftime. Ava Kimche had a team-high 11 points in the game, and eight of them came in the second quarter.
Park City tied the game at 25 entering the final quarter of play. Senior Kathleen Whiteley had four points in the fourth to set up Riely’s game-winning free throw on the front end of the one-and-one. Riely finished the night with nine points, and Whiteley had eight.
“(Kimche, Riely and Whiteley) definitely kind of led the charge, but honestly, everyone contributed,” Isaacson said. “We had three sophomores — never have played JV before, much less varsity — came in, played great minutes. I don’t remember any turnovers from any of them, and that was huge.”
For a team that ended the last two seasons with a combined record of 4-36, getting a win early in the season takes some weight off its shoulders and replaces it with some confidence. The Miners are hoping to continue their promising start when they face Ben Lomond on Tuesday.
“It means a lot, they definitely celebrated like we had won a huge game, and I think every win counts as a huge game,” Isaacson said. “But I think more so again it gives them just confidence, which is pretty important in life and in basketball. I think if it gives them that confidence boost for the next game, then that’s awesome.”
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