Bear River seniors step up big-time
The Bear River girls basketball team’s seniors were honored before Tuesday night’s home playoff game against Center (Antelope).
That was just the beginning.
The four Bruins seniors then proceeded to combine for 40 of the team’s points in a 61-38 victory, including a game-high 23 points from senior Kayla Smith. Chrysten Cotney’s nine points, Chelsea Haverty’s six and Allison Cooley’s two rounded out the seniors’ scoring.
The fourth-seeded Bruins now face No. 5 seed Placer Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bear River.
“That’s the most I’ve ever scored,” Smith said. “It was a fun game. We just stayed focused. It was senior night, and the coach told us before the game to stay focused.”
Smith was focused the entire night, but really shined in the third quarter when she dropped 10 points on the Cougars.
But she didn’t do it all herself. She had help from Cooley and Cotney, who each had four assists.
Smith was impressive getting open under the basket, and Cotney did a nice job of getting her teammate the ball.
“She’s a really good passer,” Smith said of Cotney. “She’s quick and she runs the floor well. We’ve come to terms better on where we need to be. I know where she’s going to pass it, and she knows right where I’m going to be.”
Seeing the players work together was no surprise for head coach Duwaine Ganskie.
“As a team, we’ve grown a lot together,” Ganskie said. “This is our 27th game together, and it takes a while to build that rhythm and confidence. They’ve done a great job.”
Ganskie said there really hasn’t been one player who has stood out on the team all season, but everyone has had their night.
“But the playoffs is when you need players to step up,” Ganskie said. “Kayla is a great individual player and has been a team leader all year. It’s time for those kids to step up.
“It’s not like she had to carry us tonight, but she sure did a good job.”
It didn’t take the Bruins long to get warmed up, either, as they took a 12-3 lead in the first quarter. The offense stalled a bit, not scoring for two minutes, 12 seconds, but Bear River still held a 15-7 lead heading for the second quarter.
The Bruins ripped off a 10-2 run in the second quarter and led 37-18 at the half.
That’s when Smith came alive, scoring 10 of Bear River’s 15 third-quarter points. Bear River had the Cougars doubled up heading for the final period, 52-26.
With both teams playing mostly backup athletes in the fourth quarter, Center outscored Bear River 12-9 in the final period.
While the Bruins offense stole the show, the defense quietly dominated. Bear River allowed just 18 points in the first half, but 12 of those came from hot-shooting Center guard Morgan Hunter on four 3-pointers.
Otherwise, the Bruins defense was almost perfect.
“We’ve really focused on team defense,” Smith said. “Our No. 1 goal has been to stay out of foul trouble. We’ve done lots of drills, and we play tough defense on each other in practice.
“That’s hard sometimes – because we’re teammates – but we know it’s good for each other. It pays off.”
Thursday night’s second-round game against Placer will be a rematch of a game in early January. Placer won that game 44-41.
“I don’t think it will be a matter of revenge (Thursday),” Ganskie said. “It’s about moving on. It’s not about who beat us before, it’s about who beats who now.”
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