Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
TAYLORSVILLE —- The Syracuse Titans proved they had the best 5A girls basketball team in the state.
With their 24th victory of the season — and no losses — they snared them a state title by beating Pleasant Grove 62-49 in the championship game at Salt Lake Community College.
"Everyone thought we were gonna choke. We wanted this win big time," said sophomore Brittney Martin, who finished the game with a stat-sheet filling 15 points, eight steals, three rebounds and three assists. And she spent plenty of timing trying to slow down Pleasant Grove's 6-foot-6 center Jennifer Hamson on the defensive end.
We heard all year we were in a soft region. There were questions about how good we really were. The girls took on a personal goal to go out every night and prove we were the best team in the state.
–Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck
"We heard all year we were in a soft region. There were questions about how good we really were. The girls took on a personal goal to go out every night and prove we were the best team in the state," said Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck, who feels his team has finally proven to the rest of the state just how good it is.
The Titans have done it with defense all year long. They force turnovers and get into a running competition with the other team. Pleasant Grove wanted to keep them in the half court. Syracuse won that battle as they forced 28 turnovers on 21 steals, breaking much of the game. And they played defense a little differently than most teams do against the Vikings.
"We said coming in that we were going to let Jen (Hamson) get hers and keep everyone else in check," said Reisbeck, who kept tight reign on the other players and left Hamson on single coverage most of the time, much of it fronted by Martin, who picked off eight balls, many coming into the post.
Hamson definitely did get hers by scoring 32 points and grabbing 14 boards, but the rest of the team had a tough time breaking down the Titan defense.
"We had too many secondary turnovers where we'd break the press ad then panic and turn it over," said Pleasant Grove coach Glenn Larson, who was proud of the way his team battled with the state champs and had them within six with not much time left on the clock.
But they just couldn't get any closer than that and started fouling with almost two minutes left on the clock to try to bring it closer.
Tournament MVP and Army-bound Jennifer Hazlett would have none of that, as though her outside shot wasn't falling all game long, she was plenty busy inside, filling up the stat sheet with 27 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals, simply doing it all to earn her team the victory.
I don't think it's really hit me so far. It's a really good feeling. We needed to win this game to get some respect around the state.
–Tournament MVP and Army-bound Jennifer Hazlett
"I don't think it's really hit me so far. It's a really good feeling. We needed to win this game to get some respect around the state," said Hazlett, reiterating the emotion running through the entire team from the coach on down.
Early in the game the Vikings were able to keep it close by not allowing Syracuse to get off and running, but it wasn't long before the turnovers led to fast breaks, and the Titans put their own game into a high gear.
"We had to turn it into our game or the results probably would have been different," said Reisbeck.
And early in the game it was obvious both teams were suffering a little bit from some state championship jitters.
"I was a little nervous before the game. I was a little scared," admitted Martin, who also acknowledged to being a little nervous when the Vikings closed to within six.
"All they had to do was get Hamson the ball," she noted. But her team didn't allow the Vikings to get any closer than that.
But despite not being able to lay claim to a championship and ending the season with the second place trophy, the Pleasant Grove team went off the court with their heads held high.
"Winning does amazing things. We're happy. Obviously we wish we could have been happier," said Larson after the game.
Kiana Fonua helped out the Titans' cause by adding nine points and three steals, and Meagan Butler grabbed three steals as well.
For Pleasant Grove Danyele Hoffman finished with five points, seven assists and two steals, and Hamson added three blocks to her efforts.