North Summit girls basketball, seeking redemption, enters the Class 2A state playoffs as the No. 1 seed
The time has arrived.
After losses in the Class 2A quarterfinals and semifinals the last two years, North Summit High School girls basketball coach Jerre Holmes believes this could be the year the Braves finally get over the hump and win a state title.
“This is exactly what you play for, right now,” Holmes said. “All season long you try to enjoy the journey. … And now you’re so close to the destination that you want to look ahead but you can’t. We have to focus on each game.”
The journey Holmes speaks of didn’t actually start in December when the Braves won their first game of the season, a 61-51 victory over Judge Memorial. It started on Feb. 24, 2019, the day after North Summit took down Enterprise to finish in third place at the Class 2A state tournament — but more importantly two days after losing 58-49 to Kanab in overtime and ending the Braves’ quest for a state title.
“I’ve told them, ‘I don’t know how much you still think about how last season ended but I wake up at 2 a.m. still thinking about it,’” Holmes said. “If we win this year, it won’t erase the fact that we got our heartbroken last year. … It won’t ever fix that. This is a new year and winning it all will certainly make me feel a lot better.”
North Summit will begin the postseason as the No. 1 seed on Friday against the winner of No. 16 American Heritage and No. 17 Freedom Prep Academy.
It was a great regular season for the Braves, finishing 21-1 (10-0 Region 16) with a 27.9-point average margin of victory. Their lone loss came against Ridgeline, the No. 2 RPI team in Class 4A, and a game that Holmes says could play huge dividends in the postseason.
“Other teams have had to go through last-quarter decisions and adjustments with the game on the line, but we are inexperienced in that aspect,” Holmes said. “That’s why the loss against Ridgeline is so important because we got that little fourth quarter taste. I wish we had 10 more games like that because I think we would be better prepared for the state tourney if we had more situations where things were tight.”
To help offset that, Holmes has really focused on late-game scenarios in practice — such as being down by six with two minutes left in the game or what to do in a tied game with 30 seconds remaining. But according to him, it’s hard simulating that sort of pressure. So in the end, the Braves will have to rely on their experience and athleticism.
The good news is that North Summit is in no shortage of either.
Leading the way is senior Kennady McQueen, one of the top players in the state regardless of classification and a three-time all-state player. The 5-foot-10 guard who is signed to the University of Utah checks in as the No. 60 recruit in ESPN’s Top 100.
McQueen had the worst game of her career against Kanab last year when she shot 6-of-19 from the field (0-for-11 from deep), finishing with 20 points and four turnovers.
So far this season she’s done everything to put that game behind her, averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.4 steals per game. But more important than the scoring, McQueen has trust in her teammates to get the job done, passing up shots to get one for a teammate.
“They can try to minimize her scoring, but they can never minimize her playmaking for her teammates,” Holmes said of McQueen. “I really thought we would see a box-1 defense but that hasn’t happened one time. I truly think it’s because her teammates are good players. … We aren’t a one-man show and teams know that about us.”
Senior Gracie Waterson averages a near double-double with 11 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Junior Hadley Richins is averaging 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game as a perfect complement to McQueen, while Marci Richins is averaging 6.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Of North Summit’s top six scorers, only one, Ribbins, didn’t play in last season’s loss to Kanab. So this group of players knows what it’s like to play in the pressure games of the state tournament, and according to Holmes, will be ready to go.
Expected to challenge the Braves on their side of the bracket are No. 8 Enterprise and No. 4 Kanab, their expected opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. And then awaiting North Summit in the state title game would likely be No. 2 Millard or No. 3 Wasatch Academy, two teams that have a combined 19-1 record in region play.
“Every team we play the closer we get to the end, they are teams that are good quality teams that will go to state thinking they have chance,” Holmes said.
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