Pulling Together: Morgan girls hoops goes from tragedy to brink of region title

Friday , February 02, 2018 - 5:15 AM

MORGAN — The Morgan High girls basketball team was preparing for the 2017-18 season, starting a season in which it had to replace the two leading scorers from last season and find a way to mitigate some injuries.

Then a call came and suddenly, basketball wasn’t the focus anymore for the Trojans. It was about helping one of their own.

On a snowy day in November, Taylor teenager Hyrum Rasmussen was killed in a car crash on Interstate 84. 

Many girls on the team knew him well. He came to Morgan frequently to watch his girlfriend, who played on the soccer team and currently plays on the basketball team. The Standard-Examiner chose to withhold the player’s name due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We were all together, we sat in our locker room and we all just — you either held a hand or put your arm around someone just to know that you’re there and that we were supporting each other,” senior Marcie Stapley said.

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Then shortly before Christmas, the team went through another tragedy when a team manager’s father died. Two separate months, two separate deaths affecting one team, weighing on the girls’ minds and dropping another hurdle in the path.

There were more hard days and hard talks, but through it all, they’ve become closer, stronger, tougher. And on the court, Morgan is closing in on something potentially special.

The Trojans, who lost 58-45 to Grantsville at home Thursday night, are 11-10 overall and 6-1 in Region 13. If they beat Judge Memorial next Thursday in the regular-season finale, they’ll clinch at least a share of the region championship.

“It was really emotional at first, but we pulled together as a team very well. We had a rough go for a little while, but we definitely pulled out of it so as a team we pulled together, coaches pulled together and we were able to come out stronger,” senior Jaci Jensen said.

Morgan’s first game was 11 days after the fatal crash, and practice to that point had a noticeably different feel to it.

In early December, the Trojans made a breakthrough at 6A Davis, outscoring the Darts 16-3 in the fourth quarter to win 44-33. 

Two weeks later, the Trojans fell to Esperanza (California), which was the beginning of a seven-game losing streak before region play that lasted until January.

A seven-game winning run followed, including a double-digit win at Grantsville and a 6-0 mark in Region 13 before Thursday’s loss. Stapley played through an injured ankle at the end of volleyball season and didn’t return to the basketball court until the region opener.

“We can’t always control what happens to us, all we can control is how we react to it and, hopefully, we’re headed in a positive direction,” head coach Kade Morrell said. 

Success has been relatively frequent at Morgan High for the girls basketball team over the years. The Trojans won four straight region championships from 2011-14 and at one point, won 45 straight games in region play through that stretch.

It’s not just the girls team finding success this season. The Morgan boys are 17-2 overall (the Trojans won 17 games combined the previous three years) and wrapped up their first Region 13 title since 2013-14 on Wednesday with a win against South Summit.

But with all the Morgan girls basketball team has faced, a region title this year would be quite special.

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickcarr_ or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/patrickcarr17.

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