The Grand County High School girls’ varsity basketball squad overcame a scrappy group of alumni, 49-40, on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 at home. The game, which saw the current Lady Devils play without stars Hannah Owen and Toni McElhaney, who are out of the lineup with shoulder injuries, featured former GCHS players from the 1998 to 2012 seasons.
Because of state scheduling rules for varsity high school sports, the game counted as the final non-region matchup of the year for the Lady Devils, who climb to 5-5 (0-0) with the win.
The game started with the alums taking a strong 10-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter. Lady Devil junior Josie Camps, however, engineered a late-quarter comeback by putting up the first four buckets for the Lady Devils — followed by a series of two pointers from Mercedes Zunich and Annabelle Garrett and a tie score of 21-21 with half a minute left before the break. A foul by GCHS junior Veda Gritts sent alum Natalie Garrett Reheis to the line with 15 seconds to go, allowing the alumni cagers to go up 24-21 at halftime. Zunich also scored the only three-pointer of the game during her six-point second quarter run on offense.
“I became quite concerned three minutes into the game when we were down ten to nothing,” said head varsity coach Randy Martin. “The alumni were moving the ball very well and found open players for easy shots. We got out of our zone and went man-to-man and had Camps and Zunich put pressure on the ball making it more difficult for the alumni to move the ball.”
After a flurry of offensive actions on the part of the varsity team, and a whole lot of defensive mettle under the basket by Gritts, the Lady Devils were able to take a 39-35 lead by the end of the third quarter. On offense, Gritts dominated the third quarter by scoring 11 of the Lady Devils’ 18 points off five baskets and a free throw. The Lady Devils cruised during the fourth quarter with Gritts, Garrett and Zunich each scoring one basket each, while Jessica Larsen went 2-2 from the key for four points. The second-half defense for the varsity team is what made the difference as the Lady Devils outscored the alumni 29-15 — and managed to hold the graduates to just five points in the fourth.
“I think this game finally showed us that we are finding our relationship and our rhythm on the court,” Camps said. “It was a good game for us as we get ready for 3A games next week.”
Gritts finished the game with 15 points, while Camps ended the game with 12 points. Both Zunich and Jessica Larsen finished with nine points and Annabelle Garrett added four points.
Ashlyn Walston Webb, a 2009 graduate of GCHS, led the alumni with 12 points. In the first quarter she dropped three baskets for six points and added six more in the second half. Whitney Keogh Gibbs (Class of ’08) added six points off two baskets and a 2-2 showing at the free-throw line. Rachel Garrett Bond (Class of ’12) put up four points off two baskets.
Alumni player Heidi Brooks Blake, a graduate of the Class of 2003, scored four points off two baskets in the first half. After the game, she said her favorite memory of her time in red and white was when she got a little physical against the girls from Blanding — and that her team wants a rematch with the varsity girls.
“I remember I got into a fight during the game against [San Juan] in my senior year,” Blake said. “I definitely remember that I won that fight. Tonight’s game was awesome, but we want a re-do, for sure.”
Martin said he hopes the alumni get their chance.
“It was great seeing all the alumni come back and participate in the game,” Martin said. “It was a fun night for the players and all the fans, and I look forward to our second annual alumni game next season.”
Heather Olsen Dowd, a 1999 graduate of GCHS who played for four years as a forward, said the biggest memory from the 1995-1996 season was when she was put into a region semi-final game ahead of the playoffs.
“I remember most that we went to region when I was a freshman,” Dowd said. “I was scared to death, but I didn’t want to disappoint the team so I took that adrenaline rush and played my best.”
Dowd scored eight points off three baskets and a pair of free throws. She also drew four fouls in the second half. While Dowd may have found herself in foul trouble late in the game, a number of the Lady Devils varsity players said alumni player Andrea Lopez Noyes was the most aggressive of the bunch on defense, and that she “threw plenty of elbows in both halves.”
“I would have to say that [Noyes] was the toughest player out there tonight,” Zunich sad. “She was definitely the hardest player to face in the game.”
The Lady Devils begin their 3A Region 15 stand on Friday, Jan. 5 at home when they face the Manti Lady Templars from Sanpete County. Tip-off against Manti is set for 7 p.m. The Manti varsity girls’ team is 1-8 overall on the season, with their only win coming against Maeser Prep back on Nov. 20, 2017. The Lady Devils will also host the North Sanpete Lady Hawks (0-5 overall) on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2:30 p.m.