“Nobody’s really given us a chance all year long, and now we are one of eight teams still in the playoffs,” said GCHS head coach Tony Chacon. “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win at least half our games and make it to the playoffs. We have already surpassed those expectations, and everything else we do from here on is icing on the cake.”
The Lady Devils had finished in a fourth-place tie in Region 15 play with San Juan, with both teams ending with a 3-7 record in region. Each team had beaten the other once during the regular season, with the visiting team winning both games. A tiebreaking play-in game was staged last Wednesday, Feb. 19 at a neutral site, Monticello High School.
San Juan jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the first quarter, but Grand outscored the Lady Broncos 20-14 during the second period to tie the score at 25 at halftime.
“San Juan started out really strong defensively,” Chacon said. “I just told the girls not to panic and to play tough defense and get back in the game. We hit a couple of key shots right before halftime to even up the score.”
Chacon said that the Lady Devils led by about four or five points for most of the second half, and even led by as many as eight with a couple minutes left in the game, but the Lady Broncos staged a comeback.
“[San Juan] made a crucial three-point play at the end, but fortunately, we were able to convert just enough of our free throws to stay ahead,” Chacon said, noting that senior guard Shailee Croasmun made the first of two free throws in the closing seconds to give Grand a two-point lead. San Juan rebounded Croasmun’s missed second shot, but Shailee’s sophomore sister Talaunee Croasmun intercepted the ensuing pass downcourt to seal the 52-50 victory.
“It was a great game between two evenly matched teams,” Chacon said. “We were happy to come away with the win.”
Against San Juan, Alena Geiser led the Lady Devils with 12 points, while Talaunee Croasmun and Symony Call each added 11 points. Shailee Croasmun contributed nine points, and Sadie Hansen added six.
That play-in victory earned Grand a spot in the first round of the 2A playoffs, which took place at Orem High School on Friday, Feb. 21. As the No. 4 seed, the Lady Devils had to face Rowland Hall, the No. 1 team from Region 14. Rowland Hall came into the game with a 10-0 region record and a 10-game winning streak.
“We thought about starting off conservatively, but decided to go ahead and come out with a full-court press and a man-to-man defense,” Chacon said. “Alena Geiser hit back-to-back 3-pointers at the start of the game and that sort of set the tempo for us. We had a 10-0 lead before Rowland Hall even called a time out.”
Grand jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter and led 27-14 at the half. During the third period, the Lady Devils extended their lead to 42-23. Each team then scored 18 points in the fourth period as Grand came away with a 60-41 victory.
The Croasmun sisters combined for 30 points against Rowland Hall, with Shailee scoring 17 and Talaunee adding 13. Six other players scored for the Lady Devils, including Hansen, who had nine.
“We don’t play pretty basketball,” Chacon noted. “We get a little sloppy sometimes. But the end result is what’s important. I just want our girls to believe in themselves. One of the eight teams going to Richfield this week is going to win the championship. Why not us?”
Grand is scheduled to play Gunnison next in a quarterfinal game at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield. Gunnison, which entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from Region 16, won its first-round game by upsetting No. 2 seed Millard 50-48, also at Orem on Friday.
“Gunnison is going to be a tough battle for us, but that’s what we want,” Chacon said. “Hopefully, we will be ready for them.”
The winner of the Grand vs. Gunnison game will advance to play in the semifinals at Richfield at 2:30 p.m. Friday, against the winner of Thursday’s game between Emery and Enterprise. The losers of those two quarterfinal games will play each other in the consolation bracket at 11:10 a.m. on Friday.
The state championship game will be Saturday, March 1 at 5 p.m., following the two consolation round games for third and fifth place.