Sometimes it pays surprising dividends to not have a superstar on a girls basketball team.
The Springville girls squad proved that point in the final seconds of a barn-burner against Farmington in Saturday’s 5A state title game at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville.
The Phoenix had the ball down by a point with 10 seconds left to play when senior guard Abigail Ferrell hit what looked to be the shot of the tournament: a tough, twisting turnaround from the elbow with Red Devil defenders right in her face.
Traditional basketball strategy probably would’ve been for Springville to call a timeout at that point and set up a final play, particularly if the Red Devils had a superstar.
But Springville head coach Holli Averett had told her team during a Farmington timeout before the big Phoenix shot that if Farmington made a basket she wanted them to just attack and trust each other.
“We said, ‘you’re going,’” Averett said. “If I felt like I needed to, I would call at timeout but we didn’t want Farmington to set up their defense or plan. We just thought we would have momentum and see what it gave us. Honestly, we were kind of struggling offensively near the end so I don’t know if we could’ve gotten a good look.”
Instead those final 10 seconds were a testament to the power of Red Devil team basketball.
Springville senior forward Lauryn Deede immediately inbounded the ball to senior guard Kayla Jackson, who actually had the ball tipped away as she weaved through the scrambling Phoenix defenders.
“What was going through my head was to get the ball and go,” Jackson said.
She gathered it in and, instead of forcing up a shot, passed the ball to sophomore guard Ellie Esplin. Esplin quickly scanned the court and passed the ball to Deede at the free throw line.
“The thing about this team is that they are so willing to just give the ball to each other,” Averett said. “They just trust each other so much that Kayla was willing to give it up and Ellie was willing to give it up. They are just a team.”
Deede grabbed the ball and saw senior forward Addisyn Johnson boxing out, creating a clear path to the basket.
“We had to score,” Deede said. “I didn’t care if someone shot a 3-pointer but we had to score. I had no idea how much time was left. I just went. I saw Addie (Johnson) pin the girls and I thought, OK, I’m taking it.”
As the final second ticked off the clock, Deede dashed in. She scooped the ball gently up toward the basket, releasing it right before the horn sounded.
It bounced cleanly off the glass and nestled into the basket for the picture-perfect buzzer-beating layup. giving the Red Devils the heart-stopping 39-38 victory and setting off a wild celebration.
“It took me a second to process it,” Deede said. “It was like, we’re up ... it’s over ... we’re done! It just feels so good.”
Averett said it felt like the final sequence took forever.
“It honestly was like slow motion, just waiting to see if it would go in,” Averett said. “Then it was like I almost blacked out, just pure chaos. After we ran onto the court, I don’t even know what happened. I’m honestly still in shock.”
It was a fitting end to a fantastic contest, one that saw both squads dig deep and give everything they had in a tough, physical battle.
“The entire game was about never letting up,” Jackson said. “It was a fight the whole game.”
Springville got the first big push with Jackson hitting a 3-pointer to give the Red Devils a 21-13 lead early in the third quarter.
Then Farmington responded at both ends of the quarter, dominating much of the rest of the period as the Phoenix went on a 12-0 run to go up by four points.
Springville got a key 3-pointer from sophomore guard Kayla Porray and a floater from Esplin to go up by a single point (26-25) heading to the fourth quarter.
Neither side led by more that four points down the stretch, setting up the exciting finish.
“It was one of those games where at the end it was almost going to come down to who had the last possession,” Averett said. “We lucked out and had the last possession.”
Deede led the Red Devils in scoring with 14 points, while Johnson had eight points and Jackson added seven points.
Farmington junior center Delaney Baker led all scorers with 16 points.
One of the big storylines for Springville was building on its run to the 2020 title game (where the Red Devils lost to Highland) and doing even better this year.
“This means the world,” Jackson said. “I don’t even know what to say. This is what we worked for, to get to this moment right here. Last year we fell and little short but this year we got it.”
Averett feels like earn team earned all of its success through the effort it dedicated to being the best it could be.
“Since last season, they’ve been in the gym,” Averett said. “They’ve been putting in the work. We didn’t take any Saturday’s off all season. We went six days a week. We always had a working mentality, wanting to get better. This was what that was for. Now we can go in and say that we did it. This is awesome. I don’t see how the feeling can get any better than this.”