Andy Trane watched intently as Hillcrest ran the set that had already worked so many times, the one his Bonneville team couldn’t quite solve. The play sprung open Hillcrest guard Macy Larsen for an open triple at the top of the arc.
Hillcrest took an eight-point lead with a shade over five minutes to play, and moments later, Nyah Lugo came up with a steal and a score. The Knights’ lead, just one point at the beginning of the fourth frame, swelled to 10. Trane bowed his head. He called timeout.
One of the most conspicuous parts of Hillcrest’s 53-40 home win over Bonneville Friday night was the way the hosts ran offense like so, cutting and passing and dicing up a Bees team that remains green in both team color and lack of experience.
The Knights (4-4) won their third straight contest, continuing to recover from a four-game skid that ended back on Dec. 3.
“I think they hit three 3s on us,” said Trane, whose team has now dropped three straight contests. “That was kind of the difference in the game right there.”
Much of Hillcrest’s offense — when it wasn’t losing a total of 14 turnovers — attributed to senior Aspen Cook, who registered 14 points. Cook, who shot 4-for-10 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the free throw line, often stuck back misses or set her teammates up for better looks.
She paired nicely with Larsen, who fashions herself more of a shooter, recording 15 points on 3-for-9 shooting from distance. She struggled in the first half, hitting just 1 of 7 long balls, but she changed the game in the second by going a perfect 2-for-2 on triples.
“That’s a pretty good duo,” said Hillcrest coach Alan Sargent, who added that earlier this season, Larsen canned a school record seven 3-pointers in one game. “They’re two of our more experienced kids coming back from last year. We know if they put too much pressure on Macy, it’ll open up the inside, so we go inside. Then, when they focus on our inside, Macy’s open to shoot. So they did a good job of recognizing that, and they took the shots when they needed to.”
Hillcrest also won because it limited Bonneville senior Sydnee Hunt, who logged 12 points. All of those came in the first half, though. The Knights forced Hunt into an 0-for-8 outing in the second.
If it sounds like the Knights changed their defense on Hunt, that’s because they did.
In a normal defensive arrangement, Hunt told his players, sit back in a zone defense. But when you see Hunt get the ball, key on her. Make life hard on her.
“Luckily, it worked,” Sargent said. “The kids responded well, and we didn’t give her very many opportunities.”
The Bees (2-5) got offense from elsewhere — junior Talia Trane registered a team-best 14 points — but that was because, in part, Hillcrest was busy focusing on Hunt.
That has become something like a theme this season. Hunt, starting in her fourth season for Bonneville, starred on last season’s 27-0, 4A state championship team. In fact, she was the second-leading scorer. The nine seniors that guided that team have graduated now, though, handing Hunt the torch for this one.
The problem for Hunt and the Bees is that opponents know about that reality. It became a problem on Friday night.
“We forced it a little bit,” Trane said, referencing his team’s 16 turnovers, which outnumbered its 14 made shots.
Still, things looked rosier for Bonneville in the first half, even though the Bees could hardly have looked different in the first and second quarters.
In the first, Hillcrest’s zone defense bothered the Bees, who coughed up five turnovers in the first quarter alone. Their only real offense came at the free throw line, and even there, the visitors languished. The Bees posted just six points.
Almost all that changed in the second quarter. Hunt recorded eight points in the period alone. At one point, she poked away a steal, raced the other way and finished through contact for an and-one. One free throw later, Bonneville drew within 16-12.
Minutes later, the Bees trimmed the deficit even further. Hunt missed what she thought would be her team’s last shot of the half, but when the ball came off the rim, about a second remained. Sadie Hall recognized it and stuck the miss back.
Hillcrest, which shot just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, took a 23-22 lead into the intermission.
Some 30 minutes later, it became a 53-40 win.
Moving forward, both teams will address turnovers. Hillcrest lost 14 and Bonneville committed 16.
That’s about the only similarity in their outlooks, though. The Bees will try to find ways to avoid shooting 29%, like they did Friday night, as they navigate a season full of new experiences. Next up is a road test against Highland on Tuesday.
The Knights, who will visit Blackfoot on Tuesday, will look to keep this win streak rolling. It might start with Larsen. It did on Friday.
“She can shoot the ball,” Sargent said. “If we can get her open with a little bit of space, she usually knocks them down.”
HILLCREST 53, BONNEVILLE 40
Bonneville 6 16 9 9 — 40
Hillcrest 12 11 10 20 — 53
BONNEVILLE — Kaylie Kofe 4, Mia Sorensen 2, Makenna Cook 2, Logan Faulkner 4, Sydnee Hunt 12, Talia Trane 14, Sadie Hall 2.
HILLCREST — Quinleigh Kelser 5, Nyah Lugo 7, Macy Larsen 15, Brooke Cook 7, Sam Fryar 1, Aspen Cook 14, Amber Sargent 4.