Mattie Olson only heard the sound, the volcanic eruption of joy that signaled her layup had fallen and she had won the game at the buzzer, so she leapt up and dashed over to the scorer’s table, her Skyline teammates screaming and laughing and trying their best to hug their hero in white and navy.
Back at the Skyline bench, head coach Ty Keck beamed, knowing his trust in Olson had paid off. He looked around to hug someone. They were too busy celebrating.
The noise took several minutes to dissipate in the wake of Skyline’s 51-49 4A District 6 semifinal win over Blackfoot Saturday night, but perhaps these players and coaches and fans should take a breather. They’ll have to do this again at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the title game.
For the moment, though, there was no dampening an elated Skyline gym.
“I was like, ‘This is our moment,’” said Olson, who totaled 19 points in the Grizzlies’ victory. “‘It’s right here.”
Olson has made her name for scoring, but considering the stakes, this was her magnum opus, at least so far. She revved her team’s offense to life in the second half, scoring seven of her 19 points in the final two periods, helping the Grizzlies shoot 57% from the field in the second stanza.
The three-happy Grizzlies didn’t hit their first 3-pointer of the game until Olson connected from a foot behind the arc, a trey that brought the hosts within two midway through the third.
That pried open the offense. The floodgates burst moments later.
Junior guard Sienna Taylor handed her team its first lead of the game in the final moments of the third quarter, splashing a 3-pointer from the left side. One possession later, Taylor hit again. The gym shook with noise, which is saying something considering the attendance limits in place because of COVID-19.
“It just changes the whole flow,” Keck said, “especially where it was just a five-point ballgame for a lot of that period.”
The story of this rollercoaster was the story of the way Skyline looked more like Skyline as the game went on. The Grizzlies made it to this game because they prefer a fast-paced, laissez-faire brand of basketball, where most everyone has the green light. Defend, run, shoot. The calculus is fairly plain.
Finally, in the second half, it began to work. Skyline’s Tailer Thomas flipped in a bank shot to open the fourth frame, good for an 8-0 run, which gave the Grizzlies a 40-34 lead.
They never relinquished it, but they came close. Later in the fourth after Sophie Anderson finished through contact, the Grizzlies took a 44-38 lead. But Blackfoot guard Izzy Arave calmly respond with a 3-pointer. The lead was down to three.
Olson came back with an and-one, only for Blackfoot center Hadley Humpherys to answer with one of her own. Back to three again, 47-44. The Broncos got two free throws from Prairie Caldwell, drawing within one with 90 seconds to play.
Then, moments after Anderson finished over Humpherys and Blackfoot’s Kianna Wright converted an and-one sequence, the stage was set: 49-49, seven seconds, the Grizzlies inbounding from under their own basket.
Olson did the rest. She authored her first career game-winner at the perfect time.
“I was so hyped,” Olson said. “I was like, ‘This is our moment. It’s our turn to get this win.’ I knew, if I go in there and the play works out, we’re going to get this shot and we’re going to win the game.”
Still, the truth is that Skyline doesn’t advance to Wednesday’s 4A district title game without outings from a few players. Senior Taryn Chapman finished with 11 points, scoring on impossible shots at some times and securing long rebounds at others. Anderson fouled out late in the fourth, but she also registered 11 points, four in the fourth frame.
In short, that is why Skyline will host the championship game. Its opponent will be the winner of Blackfoot and Hillcrest, but the Grizzlies expect to host another round against the Broncos.
“Somebody’s going to have to play a really good game to knock them out,” Keck said.
For the first two quarters, it didn’t look like Skyline would be the one.
Humpherys punished the Grizzlies inside with spin moves and back-downs. She totaled 20 points. She forced her matchup, Anderson, to foul out with a shade over a minute to play.
The Broncos controlled the game for the first 16 minutes. If Humpherys wasn’t making a play inside, Arave was knocking down jumpers around the perimeter. Wright used an array of moves and contortions to finish around the basket.
The Grizzlies, who make long-range marksmanship their hallmark, came up dry. They missed all seven of their triples in the first half. None were particularly bad looks, either, which made the situation even weirder.
Yet they were never out of things, which was probably a win for them. They once trailed by six, but Olson responded with back-to-back and-one sequences. The Grizzlies trailed by just two.
Even more encouraging for the Grizzlies, they didn’t lose a single turnover in the first 16 minutes.
Now, they have a chance to capitalize on their ball security and Olson’s playmaking.
First, they’ll need to catch their breath.
“There’s nothing. There’s literally nothing,” Olson said. “Playing with your friends, getting that shot, getting that win together, as a family, there’s nothing like it.”
SKYLINE 51, BLACKFOOT 49
Blackfoot 11 13 10 15 — 49
Skyline 6 13 21 11 — 51
BLACKFOOT — Prairie Caldwell 6, Izzy Arave 8, Esparanza Vergara 2, Kianna Wright 13, Hadley Humpherys 20.
SKYLINE — Sienna Taylor 6, Drew Chapman 2, Taryn Chapman 11, Sophie Anderson 11, Mattie Olson 19, Tailer Thomas 2.