It’s never an easy position for a girls basketball team leader — or her head coach — when she picks up two quick fouls in a big game and has to go to the bench.
But Lone Peak senior forward Abby Conlee didn’t get frustrated or lose focus when it happened to her in Wednesday’s 6A state quarterfinal game against Riverton at Salt Lake Community College.
Instead, she embraced it.
“It was tough to sit out almost the entire first half, but I was getting my teammates pumped up and cheering for them,” Conlee said. “I try to cheer as loud as I can. It’s my responsibility. What I can do on the bench is a lot different than what I can do on the court. You have to work just as hard. Our bench is working just as hard as the people on the floor.”
That was just one example of the total team contribution the Knights got from everyone — both on the floor and on the bench — as they rolled past the Silverwolves, 65-40.
“We were confident in our game plan,” Lone Peak head coach Nancy Warner said. “They were ready. They showed confidence in each other and confidence in what they can do.”
She said both Conlee and sophomore Maile Hunt, who filled in admirably in Conlee’s place, did what the team needed them to do.
“Someone has to be willing to step up and I think Maile stepped up today,” Warner said. “She came in and gave us great minutes to help spell Abby a little bit. But Abby’s role on the bench was huge. She has to encourage and help, especially with a younger player like Maile. She is an emotional leader for us. She was in it and focused — and then when we did need her to come back in she was ready.”
The Knights set the tone right from the start, scoring the first 11 points of the game.
“We were super-motivated,” Conlee said. “We didn’t want to give them anything easy. We had heard they thought it might be an easy game for them, so we were motivated to come out and show them what we are really made of. We came out and that carried us for the rest of the game.”
That gave Lone Peak a cushion it would never relinquish, as Riverton never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“It’s always great to come out with a great start that way,” Warner said. “I think our focus has always been on the defensive end, to make a statement there first. That creates everything for us offensively.”
Leading the way for the Knights was senior guard Maddie Eaton, who scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Conlee added 10 points, as did guard Makale Easton.
Riverton was paced by 13 points from forward Avalon Miller.
With the win, Lone Peak advanced to the 6A semifinals to face a talented Copper Hills squad.
“We are ready to fight and take on Copper Hills,” Conlee said. “They are a really good, so we are ready to face off against them and play our hardest.”
Warner said her preparation started almost as soon as Wednesday’s game was over.
“With a state tournament that has four games in one week, there is no turnaround time,” she said. “We definitely have to be prepared. We know who we play and they are a phenomenal team. We’ll make sure we take tonight and tomorrow, and prepare ourselves well.”
But this is right where the Knights want to be.
“You ride the momentum that you have,” Warner said. “That’s the excitement of the state tournament. We’ll be ready.”
Lone Peak will face the Grizzlies at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville in the 6A semifinals at 4:10 p.m on Friday.