YOUTHFUL DOMINANCE: Box Elder freshman off to scorching start

Feb 20 2014 - 1:36pm

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Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson passes the ball during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson shoots during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson shoots during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson laughs with her coach and teammates during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson waits for instruction from her coach during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson plays "Shark and Minnows," a game where every player must dribble the ball with only the left hand and players try to knock the ball away from each other until only one player is left with their ball, during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson joins her team and coaches as they wrap up practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson passes the ball during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson shoots during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson shoots during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson laughs with her coach and teammates during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson waits for instruction from her coach during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson plays "Shark and Minnows," a game where every player must dribble the ball with only the left hand and players try to knock the ball away from each other until only one player is left with their ball, during practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson joins her team and coaches as they wrap up practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)
Box Elder Middle School Freshman Keslee Stevenson poses for a portrait after practice at Box Elder Natatorium in Brigham City on Friday, February 14, 2014. (BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner)

WILLARD -- Even by freshman standards, Keslee Stevenson is considered young. The Box Elder Middle School student playing on the high school's varsity girls basketball team just turned 15 on Feb. 9.

Playing against juniors and seniors, the challenge would understandably feel daunting for anyone her age. Not for Stevenson though. In fact, she has thrived. Stevenson has made an emphatic statement in Region 5 as the Bees' go-to player -- the team leader in points per game (15.1) and steals per game (3.1).

Box Elder coach Dave Smith knew he was getting someone good when Stevenson arrived, but he admits even his expectations have been surpassed.

"We've been aware of Keslee for a number of years here, and we've looked forward to having her come in," Hansen said. "I think she's much better than anticipated or expected; and that's maybe my bad, but she's done really, really well."

Playing on a team that lost its top-five scorers from a season ago, the situation at Box Elder was primed for Stevenson to make an impact this year. Naturally, though, there was going to be a learning curve as she adjusted to her new teammates and the new competition. As a result, her numbers weren't exactly eye-popping at the start of the season. In Box Elder's first five games, Stevenson scored in double figures just twice -- and just barely each time.

"I remember the first game, I was excited," Stevenson said. "It was my first high school game. I was nervous, but excited at the same time. First few games, I progressed. I started out with seven points, I think, the first game. I was like, 'I can do better.'"

Then came Dec. 18 against Northridge. Stevenson scored 21 points, nearly doubling what had up to that game been her season high.

"I think I realized, I said, 'This is my time and I think I can be able to do this,'" Stevenson said. "After that game, I realized, 'OK, I can really play.'"

Suddenly, there wasn't a team out there keeping Stevenson from scoring in double digits.

The very next night after the Northridge game, Stevenson scored 23 against Granger. Two games later, she posted 37 with six 3s against Roy.

"I don't know what happened that game," Stevenson said. "My team set a bunch of screens for me and that's what really helped because they were staying on me and they helped get me open and knocking down those shots. It was really great and I really appreciate my team for getting me open."

Since then, the numbers have continued to impress. 22 points on Jan. 21 against Mountain Crest. 31 points on Jan. 23 against Logan. 22 points on Feb. 4 against Sky View.

Beginning with her 21-point outburst against Northridge, Stevenson reeled off 11 consecutive games with double-digit point totals, and the only reason that streak ended against Ogden on Feb. 6 was because she suffered a concussion during the second quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Defensively, Stevenson has recorded five or more steals in a game five times.

"I think as a freshman, it's icing on the cake when it comes right down to it, so it's nice when you get one that's as talented as Keslee is," Smith said. "She's done a great job coming in and just fitting in with this team -- with this group of girls that haven't really played with her much; so it's a nice surprise, absolutely."

Stevenson also finds a way to score even when the points seem hard to come by. In a game at Roy on Jan. 30, Stevenson made just four field goals, but got to the line for 14 free-throw attempts. She finished the game with 18 points.

"She certainly plays well above her age group," Smith said. "She's very mature in her game, and I think part of that comes from the fact that she's comfortable with these girls that she's playing with as a team."

Perhaps most impressively, Stevenson doesn't complain. In addition to her basketball responsibilities, Stevenson has also managed a 4.0 GPA, is a student body officer on the student council and remains active in her church callings. If there's a limit to how much she can handle, she doesn't seem to have found it yet.

"When she's asked to step up, she steps up," said Keslee's mother, Kristin Stevenson. "And it's not thinking about it... it's just kind of a natural thing. Maybe it's kind of a mom's viewpoint, but I just feel like she's a natural leader, whether she's on the court (or) off the court. She's just a good example for our family."

Keslee wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm glad I'm here," Keslee said. "That's all I can say."

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