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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood girls basketball puts up a valiant fight at state before falling to Woods Cross

Apr 03, 2022 07:38PM ● By Brian Shaw

By Brian Shaw | [email protected]

Having been at the state tournament for the past four years made this particular year nothing new for the Cottonwood girls basketball team.

What did was that Cottonwood [12-10] came into the 5A state tournament with a winning record—something the Colts haven’t had since 2014.

But this year has been all about fight and pride for Cottonwood, who came into this state tournament game with not only a top-15 seed, it was hosting its first state playoff game in many years.

In the end, this game on Feb. 25 was a battle at the Colts home fortress that ended up being lost at the free throw line in a 40-29 loss to Woods Cross in the first round of the 5A state tournament. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.

It was a tale of two teams, one in Woods Cross that had a sizable reach advantage that at the outset seemed insurmountable. Try as the smaller Colts backcourt might, they had trouble finding their way around the long, mammoth arms of Woods Cross defenders reaching their tentacles around the perimeter.

Passes were disrupted and poked away; shots redirected. Wearing a festive pink hairdo for this special occasion, sophomore Alivia Hutton burst into the paint from her customary spot at the two-guard time and again, trying hard to be that disrupter that Cottonwood has relied on all season.

But, despite being an attacking force and key disrupter on inbounds plays and the like Hutton and her teammates were unable to get the Colts going in the first period, trailing 9-0.

On Cottonwood’s first play of the second quarter it was that familiar face in hair warpaint in Hutton who brought the sizzle. She scored the Colts first basket of the game rebounding her own midrange jumper attempt to cut the Woods Cross lead to 9-2. 

Perhaps it was jitters on the part of the Colts early on, for this was the first time that they have hosted a game in the state playoffs in eight years and were trotting only one senior onto the floor in guard Olivia Tassainer.

Amid chants of “C-H, C—H-S” by the cheerleaders raising their defiance at Woods Cross with their white pompoms and pink-haired Hutton taking a breather on the bench after her spirited effort, the Colts were looking for something to get them going.

That’s when Tassainer stutter stepped and burst toward the basket from the top of the key: no dice, as it bounced off the rim. Freshman Avea Van Der Beek weaved through the trees to the rim on the Colts next possession but was called for traveling.

Halfway through a tense, defensive struggle in which the entire lower level of the Cottonwood gym was full and loud, the Colts still only had two points to show for their efforts in the first 12 minutes.

But after a necessary timeout by head coach Tes Soracco the Colts started getting into their motion offense. Tassainer started taking her time as the Colts passed the ball around the perimeter firing a bounce pass into junior center Kennedy Covili for their second basket of the game, trailing 11-4 with 2:37 remaining in the second quarter. 

Covili then blocked a Woods Cross shot on the next possession with two minutes to play before halftime, but the Colts could not convert their fast break opportunity—nor the next by Hutton whose three-point attempt bounced off the rim.

After taking a quick 30-second break following a hard foul, Hutton reentered the game, and saved Cottonwood by diving for a loose ball that prevented an over-and-back call.

Then freshman Ashlyn Tripp got inside and tipped in a missed shot from Hutton to cut the Woods Cross lead to 14-6 at the half.

As the teams came out for the halftime warmup amid the slightly off key and very high school instrumental strains of “My Girl” playing from the Colts band in the stands, Hutton chucked up one last shot, a three pointer that splashed in.

It didn’t count of course, but the next play did: the feisty sophomore guard then forced a turnover on the opening play, kickstarting a back-and-forth initial three minutes of the third quarter that saw three lead changes and two more Colts buckets, one each from the Tripp sisters narrowing the visitors lead to 17-10.

On a night when junior captain Ali Tripp was struggling, it was her younger sister Ashlyn who picked up some of that slack.

Realizing perhaps that they couldn’t run with these Colts and had been struggling keeping up with the Tripp sisters for the past few minutes, the bigger Woods Cross players started slowing the pace down on their possessions, forcing the Colts to reach in and commit fouls as Cottonwood looked for ways to close the gap.

Woods Cross was also beginning to assert that size advantage inside, and the visitors earned several trips to the line that they converted, and had extended the Colts deficit to 22-12 following a Covili jumper.

Try as Tassainer might, however, the senior captain couldn’t use her speed and guile to get to the rim but for one time in the third quarter. Trapping Woods Cross in the backcourt as had been done in previous games didn’t work either for Cottonwood; it just resulted in more trips to line giving the visitors needed breathers—having had to play at the Colts breakneck pace for 36 minutes.

Thanks to a 5-0 run keyed by Van Der Beek and two critical plays that led to free throws made by the elder Tripp who was held to just eight points, a season low, the Colts cut the Woods Cross lead to 31-27 with 2:37 left in the game. But that was as close as the Colts would get on this chilly February evening in Murray.

You get the feeling, however, that Cottonwood could be back next year in the same or better position with such a young team that only loses Tassainer and two other seniors to graduation. Ali Tripp led all Colts scorers with eight, while Covili tapped in six. Van Der Beek had five, while Tassainer closed out her Cottonwood career with four.

Cottonwood finishes the season with a record of 12-10 overall, but had an 8-4 record in their first year in Region 7.