North Summit looks to rectify last season’s ending with a memorable campaign this year
The North Summit girls basketball team has no shortage of motivation this season.
After coming up just short in the postseason the two previous seasons, the Braves return with nothing less than a state championship on their mind.
“Last year in the semifinals was one of those games where we definitely had a chance to win and just didn’t,” said Jerre Holmes, North Summit coach. “It left a bitter taste in our mouths, and now we have several girls back who not only won’t forget that feeling, will make sure the others know about it. I’m hoping that will serve as plenty of motivation throughout the season.”
For Holmes, he won’t forget how the Braves’ season came to an end last year when they fell in the 2A playoffs to Kanab 58-49 in the semifinals but took third place by defeating Enterprise 55-44.
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The loss to Kanab was one of the most painful results he’s had in his 20-year career.
“The game came down to a couple of plays and I fell totally responsible for that loss,” Holmes said. “We were ahead with a few minutes to go but we lost our composure. What makes it so hard is that they weren’t necessarily a better team than us. … They were good but we could’ve won that game and now it’s something we’ve had to learn from.”
Helping Holmes and the Braves move on has been the return of the five seniors, the clear leaders of the team.
“I think what sets us apart this season is that we are excited to have a lot of experience back from last year,” Holmes said. “Practices are very competitive because we have five seniors and a good group of underclassmen to challenge each other in practice every day.”
Leading the way is senior Kennady McQueen, one of the top players in the state overall and a three-time all state honor recipient. The 5-foot-10 guard, who is committed to the University of Utah, checks in as the No. 60 recruit in ESPN’s Top 100.
“I have been so impressed with how she has developed into one of the best players in the country,” said Lynne Roberts, Utah women’s basketball head coach. “She is the type of player you don’t want to play against because she is competitive, athletic and can flat-out shoot the ball. She embodies what we want in a recruit with her toughness and competitiveness, and she has the talent.”
McQueen has been off to another fast start the season, averaging 19.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.0 steals and 4.6 assists per game. Her ability to control the tempo and take care of details are the reason the Braves are off to an 8-0 start.
“She’s all about the team and she loves her teammates,” Holmes said of McQueen. ”She knows that she can’t win a state title alone, and so for her it is about the team. … While she is a phenomenal player, she knows that she needs four others out there.”
Among those other players Holmes was referencing includes senior forward Gracie Watterson, who’s averaging 10.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. Junior Hadley Richins is putting up 9.3 points and 3.6 assists and steals per game while sophomore Marci Richins is averaging 6.9 points and a team-high 10.4 rebounds per game.
According to Holmes, what makes this group of players special is their attention to detail. All of them, including McQueen, are more than happy to the dirty work, diving on the ground for loose balls or that extra hustle to extend a play.
“We really try to promote the team aspect and we expect them all to be like that,” Holmes said. “Them doing all of those intangibles, I really think it’s a product of the community that they live where they aren’t afraid to get down and dirty and do work. We don’t have a lazy player on the team. … they’re all energetic, ambitious and aggressive because the games are too short to not give a full effort for 32 minutes.”
Despite the undefeated start to the season, including victories over Juab and 3A Judge Memorial, Holmes says the Braves are a ways away from reaching their full potential, let alone their goal.
Fine tuning some things on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball will be essential if North Summit is going to make a run at the state title, according to Holmes.
“We still got a lot of things to iron out, which I’m really glad about because I’d hate to peak this early because I don’t think that’s sustainable throughout the season,” Holmes said. “Offensively we need to find more consistency, cut down our turnovers and make more free throws. Defensively, we are still trying to find our identity. … I want that to fit our personnel and once we get that dialed in, we’ll be tough to stop.”
With so much to still work on, Holmes admits that the team has yet to discuss what happened last year. While he doesn’t see the point in bringing it up this early in the season, the girls are all well aware of what hasn’t been said and are working to rectify that.
“There’s no point to talk about it because it’s in the past and we can’t change it,” Holmes said. “Our sights are set on trying to win a state title this year. … And while I’m sure that there will come a day when it’s brought up, we are continuing to look forward. We aren’t done learning from the past, but we are also focused on getting better each day and moving forward.”
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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.