Coming up big: Skyridge girls basketball gets key plays to win at Westlake
The first part of the fourth quarter had been good for the Westlake girls basketball team — but not so good for Skyridge.
The two Region 4 foes were locked in a tight battle in Saratoga Springs on Friday night with the Thunder going on 9-2 run to turn a three-point deficit into a four-point lead with three minutes left in the game.
Would the Falcons be able to answer?
Skyridge junior guard Cambree Blackham didn’t hesitate on the next Falcon possession, setting up and draining her fifth 3-pointer of the game to narrow the gap.
From that point on, it was basically all about the Skyridge defense and free throw shooting as the Falcons rallied to get the exciting 52-49 win.
“I think it was a good game,” Blackham said. “We were able to come together when we were down. Being able to have those close game scenarios is good for us. It’s the time to learn from those mistakes and just be able to bounce back and keep going.”
Skyridge head coach Shaylee Nielsen said she felt like her team had lost some of its rhythm as it was coming off a bye but was proud of how it still ended up on top.
“Props to Westlake,” Nielsen said. “They came out and shot the ball well, and did a good job breaking the press. I just feel like we were a little rusty in that first half, so we really challenged them at halftime to come out, get into our press harder and make smart decisions. They did what they always do. They caused some chaos and got some turnovers for some easy buckets. They just found a way to win.”
Blackham’s 3-pointer was a big moment for the visiting Falcons, since it kept the Thunder from being able to build more momentum heading down the stretch.
“Whether she is going to score it or create something, I felt like we would be fine,” Nielsen said. “Cambree will make the right decision, either to create something or hit that big shot. A lot because of Cambree, I just don’t panic.”
For her part, Blackham said making that shot just buoyed her team up after a stretch where things hadn’t gone their way.
“It’s a big momentum builder, seeing the ball go through the net,” Blackham said. “It was that for all of us, helping us feel like we’ve got it, that we were still in the game and could take control.”
Blackham’s trey was followed by a pair of free throws by senior Abby Hymas to put Skyridge in front with under two minutes left.
Blackham tacked on 1-of-2 free throws, then Westlake did the same to keep it a one-point game. Blackham was fouled with 24 seconds to play and this time made both, giving the Falcons a 3-point lead.
The Thunder had enough time to extend the game or look to tie with a 3-pointer, but the Skyridge defense was suffocating and the desperation heave right before the buzzer was partially blocked. It landed short, giving the Falcons the win.
“I think our defense is our bread and butter,” Blackham said. “At the end, we were able to go back to what we’re best at. We know our defense will win us games. We just had to play 25 seconds and we got it.”
Blackham led the way for Skyridge, finishing with 23 points. Westlake was paced in a balanced scoring effort by 13 points from senior Siona Sauvao.
After the game, Blackham and Sauvao were talking on the concourse above the basketball court, while during the game Blackham and Thunder senior Aysha Torkornoo enjoyed a laugh during an official’s timeout. The Skyridge junior said she loves the friendships she has with a lot of players throughout the league.
“It’s awesome,” Blackham said. “In our region, because we’re so close geographically, we have all grown up playing club together. So it’s just so fun to go from being teammates to playing against each other but keep that bond.”
The Falcons know they are headed down the home stretch of the season and Nielsen wants to see her squad playing its best basketball.
“This win keeps us where we need to be, chipping away toward getting into playoffs,” Nielsen said. “We’re just trying to set ourselves up for success. It was a little stressful for me, but it’s almost nice as a coach because you’re like, OK, I want them to be in those situations and have to win a tough game.”
Skyridge (14-4) gets its second shot at top-ranked Lone Peak when it goes to Highland on Tuesday while Westlake (13-6) hosts Corner Canyon the same evening.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.