Miners girls basketball sees slow start, but improvement in opener
It’s not often a team that loses by 14 points gets a standing ovation from its crowd. But Park City fans saw Tuesday’s girls high school basketball game between the home team and Morgan as cause for some celebration for the Miners.
It was a much gentler start to the season for the Miners than the last, when Park City started with a 77-39 loss to Lehi, an 81-32 loss to Skyridge and a 64-28 loss to Payson.
Coach Brett Isaacson said he is trying to change the expectation that casts a 43-29 loss as a solid performance for Park City.
“I’m hoping to break that mentality,” he said. “That’s nice, that’s great, but come on now.”
He has his work cut out for him.
Last season, the team lost all but its final game of the season – a 39-38 win over Ben Lomond, and was dogged by turnovers.
The team is still struggling with giving up the ball. On Tuesday, the Miners racked up 40 total, and 19 in the first half, though they still managed to keep the Trojans’ lead to 14-11 after two quarters.
The performance was impressive, considering how the game started for the home team.
Park City didn’t score a single point until the last 19 seconds of the first quarter, when senior center Courtney Kaufman sank a free throw. Kaufman, a returning starter, also scored the team’s first field goal at four minutes left in the half, when Park City trailed Morgan 13-4.
She and sophomore post player Arabella Janssen gave the team some much-needed confidence and aggression, as they continued to face their opponents and drive regardless.
Janssen started with the Miners last season before dropping out of the program. She rejoined the team over the offseason.
“She’s been at all of our offseason workouts,” Isaacson said. “She was penciled into the starting lineup since day 1.”
Isaacson also commended freshman point guard Samantha Riely, who saw a lot of playing time on Tuesday, and sophomore wing Caroline Cook.
Senior point guard Corrine Sullivan said the new season represents a clean slate for the team, especially with a new coach.
“We basically said we’re 0-0, we’re starting from the ground up,” she said. “And Coach Isaacson; I really give him a lot of credit. He’s come in with so much patience to work with us; to work with our turnovers.”
She said the team has taken on a new feel, with more chemistry ushered in through team-building activities.
But she said she was still nervous coming into the first game.
“I’m disappointed because we were within three at the half, and I’m also disappointed because 30 out of the 40 turnovers were unforced,” she said. “We know how to play and we know how not to travel. I think that was first-game jitters, so I don’t think that will happen again. And I’m still really proud of not losing by 40 like we did last year.”
Morgan outscored Park City 17-8 in the third quarter, which ended with Morgan leading 31-19. The Trojans scored 12 to Park City’s 10 in the fourth.
In addition to turnovers, the home team struggled to set up an offensive formation, and mark on defense.
But fixing the unforced errors are still at the top of the team’s to-do list.
“Given the amount of turnovers we had, and keeping the game as close as we did was pretty good,” Kaufman said. “I think cutting those down, we could pull out some wins.”
Isaacson said he was proud of the way the girls fought back, especially when it brought the team within three at the half.
“If they battle like that every game and keep competing and withstand runs … that to me was probably the most encouraging part,” he said. “We stayed poised, we didn’t hang our heads, and we battled. We had 40 turnovers, and we still scored 29 points.”
He said the team still has a lot of work to do in terms of withstanding pressure, and staying composed on the offense, but he said he has faith that improvements will come with time.
“I think we’re going to be alright,” he said. “It’s a long season.”
The Miners will travel to Kamas to take on South Summit on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.