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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood High girls hoops opens season learning, growing

Jan 09, 2019 11:16AM ● By Brian Shaw

By Brian Shaw | brian.shaw@mycityjournals.com 

By all accounts, everybody knew that the 2018-19 season would be good in one way for the Cottonwood Colts girls basketball team. 

For one, sophomore guard Meghan Nelson returns to the squad after also starring on the softball team as its ace pitcher. And so does junior forward Hailey Rugg and senior guards Katie Haglund and Lili Malafe — all of whom average anywhere from five to eight points per game so far in 2018. 

After those three players though, the Colts are young. Really young. Olivia Tassainer has impressed thus far, but she's a freshman and still gets varsity minutes. 

With the highs in life come the expected lows, and that's what the Colts are dealing with at the moment as they battled through November and the beginning to their preseason. 

Cottonwood opened its preseason on the road at Bountiful, a perennial state playoff contender. 

The Colts lost 62-38 on Nov. 20 yet hung with Bountiful for about three quarters of action before the Braves' depth and size overwhelmed the visitors. 

Cottonwood was led by Katie Haglund, who scored 12 points in the loss. Meghan Nelson and the freshman Tassainer chipped in five points apiece, each knocking down a three-point shot. 

The Colts then opened their home slate Nov. 27 against Payson, another tough playoff contender. In this game, Cottonwood kept the game close after one quarter, trailing 11-9. Payson extended its lead to seven at the halftime whistle and 15 after three quarters. 

For the game, Cottonwood only attempted nine shots as it dealt with a suffocating Payson high-pressure defense trapping the Colts in bad situations for most of the game. 

Cottonwood was ill-equipped to handle it, which led to numerous turnovers and a lopsided 52-29 loss. Hailey Rugg led the Colts with 11 points, draining two three-pointers from behind the arc. Nelson tacked on nine for the home team, which only had two players shoot above 44 percent from the field. 

But as November ground to a close, the Colts saved their best performance for their last game of the month. 

Cottonwood took the trek westward toward Magna to take on the Cyprus Pirates Nov. 29. Also a playoff entrant last year, Cyprus found itself in a battle with the Colts from the outset. 

Cottonwood trailed by just a 10-6 score after one period and closed the gap to three at the half with a stifling defense. The Colts narrowed it further to two after three quarters, relying on clutch shooting and balanced rebounding. 

After four quarters, Cottonwood had played the home standing Pirates to a stalemate, knotting the game up at 36-36. 

But that's where the Colts hot shooting hands would cool down drastically as Cyprus went on a 5-0 run in the first overtime period to win, 41-36. 

Cottonwood was led by an unlikely player in the near-win. Senior Lili Malafu scored a season-high nine points in the close loss, hitting on four of seven shots. Fellow senior Nelson had a bit of an off night scoring-wise, contributing eight points on three of eight from the field. 

Rugg added seven points for the visitors but for all the Colts including her, it was a tough shooting night as she got her points on 3-of-9 field goal attempts. 

For Cottonwood as a whole though, there will be more opportunities for the Colts to get their first win with plenty more preseason games yet to be played.