WASHINGTON TERRACE — By most accounts, if you asked Region 11 girls basketball coaches in November who was the favorite to win the region this year, they’d likely have said Bonneville.
Part of that would’ve been because the Lakers returned a lot of key players. The other would’ve been the “prohibitive favorite” title bestowed on defending region champions, like Bonneville, no matter what.
If you glean anything from the Lakers’ lopsided 54-25 win over Ogden on Friday night, it’s that they look the part of a champion five games into region play. That, and this is a fast team that’s going to run right past you if you give them the chance.
Unlike last year when they came slightly out of nowhere to win the region, they’re well-known now and get everyone’s best effort. But there’s some extra fuel keeping the Bonneville (11-4, 5-0 Region 11) fire burning.
Flash back to last year when the Lakers hosted fourth-seeded Lehi in the first round of the state playoffs. The final score: Lehi 44, Bonneville 38.
“It was kind of unbelievable,” senior Ashley Croyle said.
For their part, the Pioneers weren’t a one-hit wonder. They made it to the semifinals and lost by one point. For the Lakers, the loss on their home floor where, a week earlier, they had cut down the nets after winning the region title — it hurt. A lot.
Bonneville’s staple this year is speed on both sides of the floor. That speed limited Ogden (3-10, 1-3 Region 11) to 14 points through the first three quarters. That speed also accounted for 10 fastbreak points out of the 31 the Lakers had at halftime.
“When we’re at our best, it stems from our defense. We’re a transition team. If we get tips, and steals, and deflections and rebounds, we go,” head coach Tyler Dunyon said. “That’s kind of the high-pace game that we play.”
They’ve won with offense (84-70 over Morgan in non-region play) and defense (49-44 against Stansbury, who’s looked the most likely and capable challenger to the Lakers’ title defense).
Every coach preaches to get out in transition but the Lakers are exceptionally good at it. They start four guards and a post player, and three of the guards played a lot last year.
“Our easiest points come off of transition, that’s when we have to the least amount of work. And we’re in shape, we run every day, we’re out here busting our butts — so we might as well get a reward for it, you know?” Croyle said.
It doesn’t hurt that the post player, 6-foot freshman Courtnie Porter, can grab a rebound and dribble the ball coast-to-coast to create more chances that would otherwise need an extra pass.
The Lakers led Ogden 11-6 after a slow first quarter from both teams. The Tigers scored the first basket of the second quarter, then starters Brynn Soelberg and Makin Clarke got in foul trouble. That kept the door ajar for Bonneville to promptly kick it down.
“Our leading scorer, Brynn, was guarded pretty tight. Her in foul trouble and being heavily guarded did affect that second quarter,” Tigers head coach Wesley Padilla said. “They did a good job pressing us defensively.”
Croyle guarded Soelberg — averaging 14.5 points per game coming into Friday — most of the game and Soelberg scored just two points. Sydney Maw led Ogden with seven points.
Bonneville outscored the Tigers 20-4 in the third quarter to go ahead 31-10. It was 45-14 after three quarters of playing with the starters.
Sophomore Lily Hall led the Lakers with 11 points, Jenna Czarnecki had 10, Croyle had eight with four steals, Karly Conolly had seven with 11 rebounds. They had 18 steals as a team and an overwhelming share of those turned into runouts.
The important part about transition, Dunyon said, isn’t necessarily converting on every opportunity. It’s about putting opponents on their heels.
“What our kids are starting to figure out is if we can get the team running backwards, get them out of position ... even if they stop it, we’re still in attack mode,” Dunyon said.
“It’s one pass, two passes, attack, trying to get the defense off balance and it works. Do we have it figured out? Yeah, I think the kids are finally figuring out who they are.”
Bonneville already has enough motivation in region games, knowing the target on its back is going to elicit every team’s best game and the Lakers need to be ready.
But it’s not just about basketball. Many of the girls played on Bonneville’s two-time region champion soccer team. Croyle, Karly Conolly, Tessa Ulrich and Porter all were on the team this year and know how to win.
And then there’s the fire, burning in a group that’s, quite simply, had enough of early postseason exits in both soccer and basketball.