Gustin, Salem Hills dominate state championship game

Hurricane vs. Salem Hills, Girls 4a State Basketball Championship, Orem, Utah, Mar. 3, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

OREM – Stopping the state’s best girls basketball player proved to be too tall an order for the Hurricane Tigers as Lauren Gustin scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Salem Hills to a dominant 57-35 state championship victory Saturday at the UCCU Center here in Orem.

“(She) is obviously phenomenal,” Hurricane coach Franci Homer said of the Skyhawks star. “She’s going on. She’ll meet some players that will probably be able to challenge her a little bit more than our players did. We talked about every time she catches the ball (double-teaming). Obviously it wasn’t enough.”

Hurricane started slow in the game, getting down 9-2 after just five minutes of play. But the Tigers made a push late in the first quarter and early in the second to take the lead. The 8-0 run spanned 4 1/2 minutes of game time and was started by a three-point play by Jayden Langford.

Salem Hills’ Lauren Gustin (12), Hurricane vs. Salem Hills, Girls 4a State Basketball Championship, Orem, Utah, Mar. 3, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Alexa Christensen followed with a basket in the paint with 1:15 to go in the first to make it 9-7 and Langford closed out the first quarter with a free throw to make it 9-8. Hurricane’s only lead of the game came 90 seconds into the second quarter when Langford scooped a shot in from the right side to make it 10-9.

The rest of the second quarter, and the state championship game, would belong to the Skyhawks.

Brooke Vance scored in the post to put Salem Hills on top at 11-10 with 6:12 on the clock. Dixie Lainhart followed with a baseline 3-pointer that made it 14-10 a minute later, then Gustin banked one in and it was 16-10 with 4:10 left in the half.

Hurricane’s Jayden Langford (11), Hurricane vs. Salem Hills, Girls 4a State Basketball Championship, Orem, Utah, Mar. 3, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

A Langford trey momentarily stopped the bleeding for Hurricane and made it 16-13, but the Skyhawks outscored the Tigers 9-2 the rest of the half. Gustin had six of the nine points and it was 25-15 at intermission.

Salem Hills then scored the first nine points of the third quarter to put the game away.

“Our defense did a great job of coming out on shooters,” Salem Hills coach Kyle Francom said. “Especially that third quarter. I was most proud of our defense then.”

 The Skyhawks outscored the Tigers 15-2 in the third, with Gustin pouring in eight of the 15 points, six of those points coming on fast breaks.

“Transition is always one of our stronger suits,” Gustin said. “We do it mostly every game, so it is just our usual game plan. (Hurricane) is super aggressive. We couldn’t overlook them at all. They were a great team.”

The lead ballooned all the way out to 26 points early in the fourth quarter before both coaches substituted liberally. Even with Gustin on his side, Francom said his team needed to focus and execute against the upstart Tigers. 

“Playing Hurricane, there was a lot to be concerned about,” he said. “Langford is a tough kid. And (Hirschi) had 48 threes on the year, and a few more now. They are so well-coached. They execute well. There was a lot to worry about.”

Hurricane’s Hailey Homer (21) and Salem Hills’ Lauren Gustin (12), Hurricane vs. Salem Hills, Girls 4a State Basketball Championship, Orem, Utah, Mar. 3, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Hurricane ran out of magic in the state championship game, but the Tigers’ amazing run can’t be diminished by the big loss. The Tigers beat third-seeded Green Canyon in the first round of the state tournament, then shocked the state with an upset of No. 1-ranked Mountain View on Thursday. On Friday, Hurricane trailed Lehi by six with just over two minutes to play and came back to win that one as well.

It’s been awesome,” Homer said. “I think I told you this the other day. We started out in region not so well. We had kind of a low point. I talked to the girls and we talked about what real loss was. And how life challenges you in different ways. And their response to that was amazing. They went on to win the next seven. We lose to Cedar and then we win, win, win, and come to this tournament and I couldn’t ask any more. Obviously our shots didn’t fall for us today, we struggled there. It happens.”

It was evident long before the final horn had sounded that Salem Hills was going to hoist the gold trophy. Coach Homer pulled her seniors out of the blowout game with a few minutes left as a way to honor them for the season and seasons they had put in for her and her coaches.

I am so very proud of them,” Coach Homer said. “Their work ethic has been amazing. They’ve had different challenges throughout the year and my kids have stepped up to every challenge I gave them and they met it. I couldn’t ask any more of these girls.

Hurricane’s Halli Gubler (0), Hurricane vs. Salem Hills, Girls 4a State Basketball Championship, Orem, Utah, Mar. 3, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“It’s hard. I’ve been on the end of a second place finish. It’s great. I mean, hello, you just finished second in the state and look what you did the last few games to get here. It’s amazing. It really is an amazing finish for us. It’s just a disappointment.”

Langford finished her senior season with a 15-point effort, making six of her 16 shot attempts. She also led the team with eight rebounds. Friday’s hero, Hailey Homer, didn’t score, but she did grab seven boards. Hirschi was held to five points.

The Tigers finish the season with a 16-10 record and a silver trophy. Hurricane has seven seniors on the roster.

“I told them, ‘You guys are a very special part of my heart and you always will be and I”ll never forget you.’  We started this journey four years ago and most of these coaches started before that with them. This was our objective, to get to this game. Obviously, our finish was not quite what we wanted, but life does that to you. You don’t always get what you want, and how you respond to that determines the kind of person you are.”

Gustin, who has yet to commit as to where she’ll play college basketball, said her high school career was made perfect with the championship finish.

I have so much excitement right now,” she said. “We worked so hard all season long for this moment. It’s all so amazing right now. My coach said you have to be mentally tough. It’s so great, especially senior year. I couldn’t have asked for a better finish.”

Hailey Johnson added 10 points for the Skyhawks, who close the year with 24-1 record.

Note: The 4A All-state Academic team was honored at halftime of the championship game and included three Hurricane players. The group has a combined grade point average of 4.0 Here’s the list:

Girls 4A All-Academic Team
Natalie Cottle………………. Bear River
Kathleen Selvera………….. Ben Lomond
Bryn Banks………………….. Canyon View
Bailee Fielding……………… Cedar
Dream Weaver…………….. Cedar
Kaitlyn Hinton……………… Green Canyon
Tylee Brisk…………………… Hurricane
Alexa Christensen………… Hurricane
Kylee Stevens………………. Hurricane
Siuana Pauni………………… Logan
Katherine Timmerman….. Logan
Allison Warner…………….. Mountain View
Tahlia White………………… Mountain View
Cacia Rasmussen………….. Orem
Madison Houston…………. Payson
Claire Newby……………….. Pine View
Ashley Nielsen……………… Ridgeline
Kathryn Larson…………….. Sky View
Megan Spackman…………. Sky View
Lauren Ashton……………… Snow Canyon
Natalie Pendleton………… Spanish Fork

Boys 4A All-Academic Team
Tyler Webber………………. Desert Hills
Jackson Last…………………. Hurricane
Kyler Welsh…………………. Lehi
Dallin Tolman………………. Mountain Crest
Jacob Ford…………………… Payson
Braden Baker……………….. Snow Canyon
Austin Staheli………………. Snow Canyon
Dawson Banks……………… Tooele
Mitchell Bunn………………. Tooele
Kaden Watkins…………….. Uintah

Girls 4A first round results
Upper bracket
Spanish Fork 72, Stansbury 53
Logan 57, Pine View 49
Cedar 56, Bear River 34
Salem Hills 62, Tooele 25

Lower bracket
Hurricane 62, Green Canyon 53
Mt. View 57, Juan Diego 29
Lehi 44, Bonneville 38
Desert Hills 50, Ridgeline 49

Girls 4A quarterfinal results (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Upper bracket
Logan 62, Spanish Fork 45
Salem Hills 58, Cedar 48

Lower bracket
Hurricane 53, Mt. View 44
Lehi 45, Desert Hills 41

Girls 4A semifinal results (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Salem Hills 60, Logan 40
Hurricane 43, Lehi 42

Girls 4A championship (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Hurricane (15-10) vs. Salem Hills (23-1), Saturday, 11 a.m.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

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