Wednesday , December 13, 2017 - 8:51 PM
LAYTON — Silky, burgundy banners that list region championships hang from the ceiling at the west end of the Northridge High gym.
The one for girls basketball is blank. It’s been blank since the school opened in 1992. This year, for the first time in a long time, there’s optimism and belief that banner could have some sort of writing on it after the season.
The Northridge girls basketball team is 8-0 to start the season, its best start in school history and a 180-degree turnaround from years past, after a 49-27 home win over Layton Christian on Wednesday.
The big difference has been a change in their approach.
“In the past, we’ve been playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” head coach Chris Smith said. “And it makes a big difference. We have girls that are used to winning, excited about winning who want to make this a habit.”
Speaking of those years past, the numbers tell the story on their own.
Since Northridge opened in 1992 and started fielding a girls basketball team, the Knights have had just one winning record, and that was in the 1994-95 season. Including eight wins this year, the all-time win-loss record is 158-374, according to year-by-year data provided by the school.
The Knights have finished .500 only twice and have made the playoffs seven times, winning just once, along with a play-in game last year at Roy.
The catalyst for the change in mentality Smith mentioned was when the Knights beat Roy in the play-in game last year. It cemented some belief in the team that there was more it could accomplish.
This year, players said it was a win over Viewmont that further cemented the Knights’ confidence. The Vikings have one of the best players in the state, Clemson commit Mercedes Staples, but the Knights won by nine points in a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
In Wednesday’s win, the Knights showed off one of the reasons they’ve been so successful this season: defense. In the first quarter, Northridge’s press defense caused turnovers and havoc all over the place, leading the way to a 17-7 lead after the first quarter.
LCA’s offense was grounded the rest of the game, save for a brief run of a few points in the second quarter.
“We’ve got a pretty aggressive group that just wants to go out and steal the ball, and that’s kind of just what we do,” senior captain Lydia Mashburn said.
Abigail Neff and Jessica Petersen paced the Knights with 13 and nine points, respectively against the Eagles on Wednesday. They’re two of a group of six seniors on the team — including Mashburn, Kendell Petersen, Kambree Christiansen and Trinitee Hulse — who saw playing time two years ago as sophomores.
Despite a mix of talent and experience, there is no superstar player for the Knights. Mashburn says that just makes the team harder to guard.
Some video of the Northridge/LCA game tonight. Take a look at the Knights' defense in the first part pic.twitter.com/UL8iWqxKdn— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) December 14, 2017
“I can name 10 people who could go off and have like 20 points, so we’re really deep and you can’t focus on one player,” she said.
With Northridge, it’s all about playing good defense, running in transition and sharing the ball so they pass up good shots to find great shots.
“We’re always kind of looking for that winning shot, that 3-pointer that’s going to win the game, and I think that we’re focusing less on that and more on those little plays, the little dishes and layups that will help gradually make us win,” Neff said.
There is also a visible drive about this team, Smith says. There’s no such thing as giving up on a ball headed out of bounds and players regularly follow their own shots.
“In their mind they say ‘Hey, we’re going to battle regardless,’” Smith said. “I mean, there’s a few games we had this year that were really close that previous teams would’ve lost. These girls are resilient.”
The challenge now for the Knights is dealing with the new reality of having a giant bullseye painted on their backs. Teams are out to get them every single night.
It’s never been that way for this group, and with region play beginning next week, games have a definitive meaning and the 8-0 record will only serve as more motivation to opposing teams looking to grab a big win.
ROY 44, SPRINGVILLE 33
ROY – Springville led by one after the first quarter, but Roy outpaced the Red Devils 32-20 the rest of the way for the win.
Josie Williams led the Royals with a game-high 20 points. Brittney Hatch added 10 for Roy.
WOODS CROSS 58, OLYMPUS 42
HOLLADAY – Woods Cross ran out to a 20-7 lead after the first quarter and cruised to the win at Olympus.
CLEARFIELD 40, TAYLORSVILLE 39
TAYLORSVILLE – With Clearfield trailing by one late, Grayson Banks hit a game-winning shot to lift the Falcons to victory.
Banks finished with 12 points while Carter Buchi led Clearfield with 14.
The margin was not bigger than two points at the end of any quarter.
MORGAN 83, PARK CITY 49
PARK CITY – Morgan led 41-26 at halftime and rolled to a win at Park City.
Tyson Hurd led a quintet of Trojans in double figures with 16 points. Cade Russell and Trey Miles each scored 13, Kaleb Calderwood netted 12 and Laine Carter added 11.
OGDEN 55, SOUTH SUMMIT 49
KAMAS – Ogden led 19-5 at the end of the first quarter and held off a South Summit rally for the road win.
The Wildcats pulled to within four late in the fourth quarter but could get no closer.
Keon Berghout led Ogden with 21 points while Ben Cochran added 14.
ROCKWELL 57, ST. JOSEPH 51
OGDEN — St. Joseph trailed 52-33 after three and a fourth-quarter comeback fell just short in a home loss to Rockwell.
Gavin Anderson led St. Joseph with 13 points and 17 rebounds. AJ Juarez and Austin Hills each added 11 points.
North Summit at Ben Lomond
Wednesday’s game at Ben Lomond was canceled due to a scheduling conflict.
Justin Johnson contributed to score reports.
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