Dazzling Dinos place third
Remember the famous line from the move The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are in the deep dark forest shaking to their bones? They chanted, "Lions, tigers and bears; lions, tigers and bears; lions, tigers and bears."
Carbon High's Lady Dinos could have used a good portion of that chant starting on Thursday as they began a series of games facing the toughest opposition in the state. The difference would have been is that they could have chanted Tigers, Warriors and Bears, and certainly have been nervous. That was because they had to face one team with one of the most highly regarded centers in the state, another which had only given them only one of the two loses they incurred before state this year and a team that had given everyone in Region 9, a very tough place to play, all they could handle all season.
The nervousness was not unwarranted as they won two of their three games at the state tournament at Dixie State College in St. George. Unfortunately one loss does not make for a championship, but in this case the two wins did provide a third place at state, the best finish of a Lady Dinos basketball team since the banner year of 1997 when the team from Carbon won it all.
The story began to unfold on Thursday, when the team had to face the Bears; the Lady Bears of Bear River High. This was a very tough first round matchup; it was probably the toughest first round any team had to face in their first game. The Bears came out of Region 11 where they had defeated the number one ranked Morgan Trojans and knocked them off the top of the heap by doing so.
Funny thing though; this team many others feared all season turned out to be a paper tiger...er...bear. Center Courtnie Woerner was the biggest fear the Dinos had. At 6'3" she had been a force to reckon with all season, but about halfway through the first quarter she went down with a knee injury, which ended her career at the high school level, and also sent her teammates reeling. Woerner was obviously this teams heart, because any they had left was taken away quickly by the Lady Dinos defense as they turned into the tin man of Oz fame. Carbon won the game in big fashion 59-36.
That first quarter was close until the tall center went out. The Carbon defense had done a good job on controlling the ball getting to her, but once she was gone the Lady Dinos scattered the opposition around on the court like the straw from the scarecrow blowing in the wind. By the end of the period they were ahead 16-13, but had only just begun to fight.
The rally had begun with the middle of the first period, but it was in the second period when all doubt as to whom the best team was removed. With Cassie and Chelsey Warburton at the forefront the team ripped off a 22-8 run and never looked back and the haunted forest. By half time the score was 34-21.
The Lady Bears went into the locker room to find the Wizard of Oz and see if they could find their hearts, but he was not there. When they came out the it was obvious which team had the heart and the brains in this game. Carbon took them apart time and time again on defense. However, Carbon's offense was not as strong as it had been in the first half. The team only put 25 points on the board, but once again the defense won it for them as they only allowed Bear River to put through 15.
Chelsey Warburton lead the team in scoring with 16 while sister Cassie put in nine points.
That set up a grudge match between Carbon and Snow Canyon, which had easily handled the Janeen Nelson threat (one of the top scorers in the state) by holding the Roosevelt wiz to only six in a 48-35 first round thrashing of Union. The grudge between the two schools eminated from two sources. Last years controversial 3A baseball championship between the schools which Carbon won, and the fact the Lady Warriors had handed the Lady Dinos their first loss earlier in the pre-season at the Emery Tournament.
The Lady Dinos were confident going into the game because they knew they had not played their best when they met the Lady Warriors in December. But many prognosticators around the state felt that Snow Canyon was the best defensive team in 3A girls basketball. Carbon wanted to show that despite the Snow Canyon reputation they were the better of the two when it really counted.
Burns Arena was fairly crowded for this game, with the majority of the fans on a early Friday afternoon coming from the Warriors territory only five miles away. However Carbon did have probably the best crowd of any of the northern schools that came to the tournament.
In the end it came to the same kind of game that was played at Emery earlier in the season. Snow Canyon, who were the runners up to Pine View last year wanted no part of being relegated to the second tier of teams. They wanted that final game against the winner of the Wasatch-Hurricane matchup to prove they could finish first this year. The Lady Warriors came back from a small deficit to final beat the Lady Dinos 43-40. It was another by the skin of the teeth win over Carbon, and many in arena, including those from Snow Canyon and from little connection to either team felt this was actually the championship game. But brackets have a funny way of twisting what could have been.
The game began as a large tug of war between two very good defensive teams. Knocked away balls, outright steals and players fighting through screens with people laying all over the floor marked the first period almost every minute it was played. The score reflected the kind of lid each team had put on the basket for the other. With 1:33 to go, the score was only 5-5. By the end of the quarter Carbon had managed to squeak out a one point lead, 7-6.
At the start of the second period the game began to seesaw back and forth as the defensive intensity each team had shown in the first period began to wear a little thin. But nonetheless the scoring was nothing to write home about as both teams missed many wide open shots and even some easy layups. With both teams tied at 15-15 with only 1:14 left in the first half it looked as if the squads would go into the locker room knotted up, but Carbon was able to forge ahead in the last seconds and went into the arena tunnel with a two point lead.
Half time had Carbon fans talking about how much this game looked like the one the team had played against Snow Canyon at the Spartan Center. But everyone hoped the outcome would be very different.
In the third period the Lady Dinos began to assert their influence more. It was obvious that the halftime show in the locker room had done some good. They began hitting shots, with Cassie Warburton hitting a couple of three pointers that started moving the team in the right direction. With 5:16 left in the quarter Carbon was ahead by four, 26-22, and it looked like they were moving ahead for good. By the end of the quarter they held onto a 31-25 lead and were pulling away. Carbon fans started to breath a little easier and the matchup with Wasatch, whom everyone thought would win the other game seemed imminent.
The final quarter seemed to become the battle of the mythical jump balls, which anymore just happens at the beginning of the game. Players would grab onto the ball and someone from the opposing team would latch onto it causing a jump ball to be called. Therefore the action was broken up. The defensive intensity of both teams picked up, but it seemed this time the only lid on the basket was that Mason Jar snap ring on the Carbon goal.
By the 4:35 mark, Snow Canyon had pulled to within two points, 34-32. Cassie Warburton then seemed to take over the game, and it looked as if the senior forward who knew she only had one game after that game to play in a Carbon uniform and she wanted it to be in the championship game.
In the minutes that followed she was like a demon on both ends of the court and put in two three pointers to keep Carbon away from defeat. She ended up with 19 points for the game, the highest for any player on either team.
But it wasn't enough as the Lady Warriors kept coming down the court on almost every possession and scoring. With less than a minute to go the game was tied at 40 and Carbon had the ball. Snow Canyon had made 10 of their 12 free throws in the fourth to catch up as the Carbon kids increased their defensive pressure.
In that last minute the hot water seal was placed on the Carbon goal; they just couldn't either get it in or it was tipped away before they did. Snow Canyon's Ava Crump was able to put the Lady Warriors ahead 42-40 with about 30 seconds to go. The ball came down court for the Lady Dinos, but it was snatched away by Crump and she went down and was fouled with about eight seconds left. She made one free throw and it was 43-40.
Carbon got the ball and brought it down under heavy pressure. The ball got to Cassie Warburton just a little too late to have it launched as a three pointer, which bounced off the rim even if it had been on time. It was the end of a dream for the Lady Dinos, who had hoped to make up for the second place finish it volleyball by winning it all in the round ball sport.
The girls did the customary slapping of hands with the victors, but few dry eyes were to be seen as the ran almost as quickly as they could to the tunnel that led to the locker room. That could have been the end of it. When a dream disappears, sometimes it is hard to replace it with a different one. Later that evening the team found out they needed to face another Region 9 powerhouse after Hurricane lost to Wasatch in the championship round 48-39.
Saturday dawned sunny, but cold and blustery. By game time at 2:30 p.m. the sun had warmed this a little and the Carbon players also donned sunny dispositions as they came out on the court that had been so cruel to them the day before for their shoot around. There was a confidence in the air; a confidence that said yesterday didn't matter anymore and that the team, including it's three starting seniors would be on only one of three teams to win their final game of the year.
But the game didn't head that way initially. Hurricane played it tough and again the Carbon goal seemed to have a screen over it. Time and time again the defense took the ball from the Lady Tigers, but Carbon couldn't convert. By the end of the quarter, the kids from Washington County led 13-11, and the large Carbon contingent in the stands seemed very uneasy. It looked too much like Friday's game and they were worried.
That all turned around however in the second period and the slow start in the first quarter led to a bolt of lightning. Carbon's offense started to click and the pressure defense instituted by coach Bruce Bean began to take it's toll on Hurricane, who actually handled the traps better than most teams have this season. Again the daggers in the Tigers hearts were formulated by the two older Warburton sisters. At the 3:30 mark the Lady Dinos were ahead 18-15 and by halftime they had a 26-19 lead, holding Hurricane to only one point in the last three and half minutes.
The third quarter proved that momentum isn't always everything as both teams struggled to get the ball in the basket and Hurricane out scored the Lady Dinos 8-5 in the period. It was the lowest output of points by Carbon all season.
But right at the beginning of the fourth period the drought was lifted as Carbon began to run and score. Warburton three pointers put the team well ahead for good and by the 4:30 mark the Lady Dinos were in control 41-28 and Bean was substituting more freely. With less than a minute to go he pulled most of the starters and the team ended up out scoring the opposition 19-13.
Most interesting of all is that the high flying Lady Tigers were only able to manage four baskets in the second half of the game, due to the Carbon pressure. All the rest of the points came off free throws.
It was time to celebrate a great year and the team came together in the locker room after hugs from parents and admirers to realize that it was the end of a season they wanted to end differently, but ended happily just the same.
"I am so proud of all of you," Carbon principal told the girls. "You could have just given up after yesterday, but you didn't. You came back and did the job."