Sunday , April 01, 2018 - 5:15 AM
WASHINGTON TERRACE — Three hundred and sixty-two days separated two very important wins for the Bonneville girls basketball team.
On Dec. 8, 2016 — early last season — the Lakers beat Davis 32-29 on the road. It was their only win of a season in which they finished 1-18.
On Dec. 5, 2017, Bonneville escaped with a gutty overtime win at Mountain Crest. It was the team’s first win of the new season after starting 0-3.
So the Lakers were into it. Finally, victory. Next was another tough road contest at Highland.
Head coach Tyler Dunyon and the rest of the coaches deeply scouted the Rams’ players, knew all of the team’s sets, knew pretty much all there was to know about them, couldn’t have been more prepared ... and the Lakers lost by 17.
Granted, this ended up being a Highland team that got a No. 4 seed and went on a mini-Cinderella run to the 5A state semifinals.
But the loss wasn’t just a lesson for the players. It was a lesson to the coaches, one they took to heart and embraced the rest of the season.
“I felt like when we put that type of pressure on kids, they think too much and that’s what I found out about our group of girls. Just roll the ball out and play and they’re good,” Dunyon said. “We backed off and prepared them as far as their opponent, showed them just a couple little things, basic sets and that type of stuff.”
There is a fine line coaches toe every season between being too hands-on and too hands-off.
Dunyon and the Bonneville assistant coaches — Zu Grinsell and Megan Tanner — realized it was better to push the team in the right direction, but not necessarily drag it there.
What immediately followed was one of the best stretches in recent Bonneville girls basketball history.
The Lakers won 14 straight games, starting with upset wins over 6A teams Davis and Weber, and by the 14th consecutive win had clinched at least a share of the Region 11 championship.
A week later, Bonneville won the title outright by beating Tooele on its home floor. The Lakers finished the 2017-18 season 16-6 overall and had the third-best scoring defense (40.4 points allowed per game) in the 4A classification.
All this after going 1-18 the year prior.
The turnaround and early-season coaching adjustment are some of the reasons why Dunyon is the Standard-Examiner’s 2017-18 All-Area Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
“Truthfully (the season is) kind of surreal. There was no doubt that we were going to compete, but still a lot of unknowns,” said the third-year head coach. “You try to get a feel for the team in the offseason, summer and fall workouts, all that kind of stuff, but you just never know what you’re going to get.”
Dunyon didn’t even know how much of a team Bonneville would have this year, or if the Lakers would even have a team. He only had 15 total players among sophomore, JV and varsity teams.
That presented its own issues — like how to practice hard, but not so hard that players suffer injuries or have nothing left in the tank for games.
It was partly the result of the team having just won one game the season prior. And of the 18 losses, eight were by single digits.
“You work so hard day in and day out and you’re not getting the results that you want, which ultimately is that win, it’s detrimental to a lot of kids,” Dunyon said. “After that season, what do you do as a coach? Do you try to get harder? Tougher?”
After the one-win season, nobody expected much out of Bonneville this year despite realignment pitting the Lakers against smaller schools than they’d traditionally played.
Yet there they were, raising the region championship trophy at the end of the regular season, cutting down the nets in their home gym.
Dunyon was quick to give credit to his support system: the team, Grinsell and Tanner, his wife Randi and their four children: Colby, Kru, Mason and Dax.
The season ended sooner than Bonneville wanted, though, with a home loss to Lehi in the first round of the 4A state playoffs.
“Looking back on it, it’s too bad that it’s over. It truly was so enjoyable being a part of something like that, being with those kids every day, now that it’s over it’s like ‘Aw dang, what do I do?’ Dunyon said. “They’ve got me coaching girls golf now, too, so that helps with the sting a little, too.”
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