There's something perplexing about the way Mattie Olson has established herself as one of Eastern Idaho’s most lethal scorers. She has the numbers, the records, the games that make you scratch your head and wonder how anybody is supposed to defend her.
What she also has is a consistent commitment to the idea of team. Ask her coaches and teammates about what stands out about Olson and two things come up right away: Her scoring acumen, and her unselfishness executing it.
Take a look at Olson’s junior campaign so far and the contrast — at least what looks like one — really materializes.
In Skyline’s 10 games, Olson is averaging 25 points and shooting a blistering 41 percent from deep. She’s also had scoring outings of 41 points against Hillcrest, 34 against Bonneville, 29 against Thunder Ridge, and 20 against Madison.
“She’s played a lot of basketball,” Skyline coach Ty Keck said. “I think she recognizes and realizes that there’s not very many teams that play one-man ball and win, and she has really bought into the idea of team that we really try and sell here.”
So how do these two realities coexist? How can such a devastating scorer pour in enormous point totals and do so within the confines of a team that stresses team basketball so strongly?
To those around the program, and to those who have been on the wrong side of Olson’s best outings, the answer is twofold. It involves the junior’s selflessness and her teammates’ abilities, both to score and recognize when they should encourage Olson to do the honors.
When she’s having one of those games.
“Most of the time, we just let her go off,” guard Sophie Anderson said. “If she’s on, then keep shooting. But if she’s off — which isn’t very often — then she is really good at noticing that and passing it to other teammates and we do good.”
Anderson has a point, and not just the one about how seldom her teammate is off. Olson averages just 2.6 assists per game, but she tends to make the right passes at the right times, often to the right player.
For example, one of Olson’s tamer outings — by her standards — came in a win over Century. She scored a team-high 18 points, but Drew Chapman posted 12 points, Lizzie Bialas registered 11 and Anderson added 10. Together, they won the fourth quarter 25-13 and rallied past the Diamondbacks.
“I’ve been playing with most of the girls on my team for a long time,” said Olson, who has played varsity each of her three years. “I know they’re good players, and I trust them. If I’m having an off night, I just do what I can to get them the ball and get them their 20-point nights and stuff like that.”
Olson's teammates may not light up a scoreboard as much as she does, but it isn’t uncommon to see them score in double-digits, which is enough to discourage defenses from sending double teams Olson’s way.
Just check the box scores. When Olson posted 17 points against Thunder Ridge, Bialas scored 13 points and Chapman added 12.
When Olson went for 23 points against Idaho Falls, Bialas followed with 15.
When Olson dropped 29 on Thunder Ridge the second time around, Bialas chipped in 11, and when Olson tallied 34 points against Bonneville, Bialas logged 13.
In a broader sense, this is nothing groundbreaking. Good luck finding successful teams that don’t feature multiple scorers who can reliably go for 10 or more points. Skyline is different, though, because its main scorer warps the floor in ways that leave defenses so few options.
Eventually, Skyline’s sheer number of options wears on opponents.
“They’re a pretty well-rounded team,” said Bonneville coach Andy Trane, who added that Olson canned six 3-pointers against his team, some from well behind the arc. “They’ve got good shooters and good inside girls, so you can’t really leave anybody open, which makes it tough when you’re 1-on-1 with her. She’s very quick. She can get to the basket. She’s got really good moves around the basket. Can spot up. She’s a tough matchup.”
She might be one of the toughest in the state. After all, she’s heard from several college teams, including Boise State, Utah Valley, Dixie State and Montana State, which extended an offer this summer. “There’s a couple others, but those are the main ones,” said Olson, who has also played club basketball since her freshman year for the Idaho Flash during Skyline’s offseasons.
Still, there’s more to Olson’s game than just scoring, otherwise she might not stand out so much. She’s one of the team’s best rebounders, her teammates and coaches say, and the numbers back that up. She averages 2.6 offensive rebounds and 5.0 defensive rebounds per game, good for an average of 7.6 rebounds a contest.
If that sounds rare, that’s because it is. Rebounding doesn’t come easy to many, unless you tower over everyone on the court, which makes it more about desire and less about skill.
Fortunately for the 5-foot-8 Olson, she has both.
“I love rebounding. Rebounding is just, ‘Who wants the ball? Who’s going to go get it?’” Olson said. “So I think it’s just part of me. I’m like, ‘I want that ball. I’m going to go get it.’ I’ve scored a lot of points from offensive rebounds. I think it’s that drive in me. I just want the ball.”
That drive is important. Without it, Olson might have a harder time coming by these scoring eruptions.
It began when Olson was a toddler, playing basketball in the driveway with older siblings Connor, Halli and Macy. She grew frustrated when she played her brother, she said. He was just too old, too good.
“I would get so mad,” Olson said.
These days, Olson doesn’t have much to get mad about. When she isn’t locating open teammates, she’s setting records, like her 41-point outing against Hillcrest. It’s unclear whether that’s a Skyline girls program record, but the boys program record is 40, so it’s a strong possibility.
In that game, Olson did her teammates more favors than a win. For her performance, Olson won a bet with assistant coach Kelsey Matthews, who told the team that if anyone breaks her record of six triples in a game, she’ll buy the team a steak dinner.
Olson splashed seven.
The dinner hasn’t happened yet, according to teammates. As long as Olson is on the team, though, coaches might want to end the bet. Olson still has another year to shatter records.
“It’s awesome to see her accomplishing all these goals that she’s always had growing up,” said Chapman, who has been friends with Olson since both were 4. “It’s just crazy to see her have these games, because we’ve been playing basketball together forever. I knew she was going to be good, but she’s just insane.”