PLAIN CITY — Things were close midway through the first quarter as both teams matched each other for baskets, and Fremont High girls basketball led Davis 5-4.
Leading 6-4 after a free throw, junior forward Timea Gardiner dribbled off a screen and swished a 3-pointer, prompting a Davis timeout.
That was with 1:41 left in the first quarter. It would be until the 3:20 mark of the second before Davis would score again and by that time it would be a 21-point deficit.
Such is life for Region 1 teams the past few years.
Fremont led by as much as 45 and dismantled Davis 65-22 on Friday night in a meeting of the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams in the state’s 6A RPI rankings.
In smothering a Darts team that will likely finish no lower than third in Region 1, the Silverwolves have now won 44 consecutive Region 1 games, a streak that began Feb. 3, 2017, with a 14-point win at Northridge.
Region 1 teams can typically stay close to the Silverwolves (10-0, 2-0 Region 1) for a few early minutes, then find themselves down 20 or so points at halftime after watching a flurry of layups go through the net.
Gardiner made a couple more baskets underneath as part of the big first-half run. So did BYU-bound forward Emma Calvert, and so did center Maggie Mendelson.
Kallin Freestone twice flew in for offensive rebound put-backs in the first half, and the Silverwolves led 32-12 at the break. At the other end of the floor, Davis had a tough time getting an open shot thanks to Fremont’s defensive work.
“I feel like our defense generates a lot of our confidence, but the transition game has improved a lot this year,” Fremont head coach Lisa Dalebout said.
The first basket of the second half was a Calvert corner 3-pointer, and away it went. The lead ballooned to 42 in the second half, then Dalebout emptied the bench.
Gardiner led all scorers with 19 points, Calvert scored 13 and Mia Austin scored 12.
“It was nice to get a win, it was nice to play a really tough team. That team is really good. Early on they did some stuff that made us a little uncomfortable and we figured it out and adjusted to it, but they did well,” Dalebout said.
The Darts had scored 64 and 68 points their last two outings, and Fremont held them to their lowest point total of the season by far. Taylor Leavitt and Callie Tolman led Davis with six points each.
“We just contested everything, talked and communicated and then the energy just carried to offense,” said Gardiner, who added to her scoring total in the second half with a couple of cooly taken midrange jumpers.
Friday’s meeting featured the best group of girls basketball talent on the same floor in Northern Utah in a long time, maybe ever.
Fremont plays at least two girls who will play Division I basketball — Emma Calvert at BYU and Timea Gardiner, the latter currently the No. 4 ranked recruit nationally in the class of 2022 — and a third, Mendelson, who will have the choice between D-I basketball or volleyball (or both).
On the other bench, Davis (6-2, 1-1) junior Kylee Mabry has a handful of offers from D-I schools including Hawai’i and Weber State, and came into Friday averaging 13 points, 7.4 steals and 6.4 rebounds per game.
At her current pace, Mabry has a shot to land in the top 10 for single-season steals in Utah girls basketball history.
The Silverwolves have it better than a lot of teams in the state with five returning starters, a handful of returners on the bench and a sheer level of good talent. They can start the year playing at a higher level than most teams.
The challenge behind the scenes, then, is to progress at a high level, too.
“Just come into practice every day trying to get better, working hard, working on the little things that will get us better every single day: boxing out, closing out, we still have stuff to work on, it’s still middle of the season,” Gardiner said.
Sure, Fremont has legitimate state-championship aspirations this year. The Silverwolves are the No. 1 team in RPI, but nobody gets trophies, banners, lifelong memories or a net to cut down just for being the top seed.
But with COVID-19 gripping the country and particularly having a profound effect in Utah, the Silverwolves, like every other team, are just happy to be here.
“Be grateful every day, that’s our mantra this year. You never know when it’ll end,” Gardiner said.