Veda Gritts was the empress of defense, Hannah Owen was back in the lineup and Mercedes Zunich hit a buzzer-beater from half court.
The Lady Red Devils girls basketball team played twice at home last week after injuries threatened to derail their season. The Devils came from behind to beat the North Sanpete Hawks 42-33 on Friday, Jan. 25. Grand County held onto a slim lead over the Manti Templars to walk away with a 50-48 victory on Saturday, Jan. 26.
In the Friday game against North Sanpete, the Lady Devils were behind until the very end of the third quarter, but they kept it close the entire game. Zunich hit a half-court shot as time expired in the third. The three points put the Lady Devils ahead and it was an emotional boost the team needed.
“I give the whole team credit,” coach Randy Martin said. “I think they were inspired by having Hannah, their teammate, who they played with for years, back on the court and they felt more confident knowing she was there with them.
“We kept on battling, battling, battling and when Mercedes Zunich hit that half-court shot, that was such a lift for us ... we lost to these girls by 40-plus points three weeks ago and to turn that around and win by 10 at home is ... I can’t speak highly enough about the girls’ efforts tonight. Our defense was just outstanding from start to finish.”
Gritts is an important part of the Lady Devils defense. She is particularly effective in close quarters action and she has a way of timing and anticipating her opponent’s shots. Gritts does not flail her arms wildly or yell at the opposition. In carefully calculated moves, she casually and rather gently pokes the ball away or simply takes it.
In the first quarter of the game against North Sanpete, Gritts blocked a shot, got the ball, ran down the sideline and scored. The look on the face of the player she took the ball from: painful and priceless.
Gritts had 15 points in the game against North Sanpete. Josie Camps had 11. Zunich and Owen tallied eight points apiece.
The game with the Templars was an exciting nail-biter. The Lady Devils established an early lead and they were up 29-13 at halftime. At one point in the game, the Lady Devils enjoyed a 23-point lead.
The fourth quarter was insane and a few factors contributed to the craziness. Manti’s offense aggressively sprang to life. Gritts fouled out with about six minutes left in the game. Grand County responded to the Templars’ aggressive offense with aggression of its own and as a consequence, the Lady Devils were hit with a number of fouls.
Not only was Grand committing fouls, but when the Lady Devils had foul shots of their own, they missed as the Templars chipped away at the lead.
Manti pulled within a point with 3.5 seconds left on the clock. Freshman Tenney Cook was fouled. She missed the first shot and put the second one in the bucket. Time ran out on Manti. The Lady Devils won 50-48.
“I’m extremely proud of our freshmen [Tenney Cook and Madison Munger],” Martin said. “To step up and compete in that situation with that type of pressure; one-point game, minute to go. Having to send two freshmen out there to hold that lead, to defend that lead, I give them a lot of credit.”
The Lady Devils will be on the road for the next three games and will return to Moab for the final regular season game at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8.