Tia Pappas drives to the lane during the Carbon-Emery 3A championship game on Saturday. Pappas led the Lady Dinos with 15 points and 15 rebounds in the 55-42 loss to Emery.
Many Carbon players were overcome with emotion as the game ended. Head Coach Cami Carlson consoles Tia Pappas after she fouled out in the final minutes of the championship game.
After successfully navigating through 21 games, with only one blemish on their record, Carbon was in the place they dreamed about during those early season practices and tough region games: the 3A state championship game.
Entering the tournament as the number one seed from Region 10, Carbon won a close contest with Richfield, advancing to play Cedar in the quarterfinals. Teetering on the brink of elimination, Carbon showed its heart and determination under the bright lights of the Huntsman Center surviving a grueling 58-57 double overtime win over Cedar. From there they defeated a familiar foe in Delta, the only team that put a blemish on an otherwise perfect season, 46-30 to reach the finals.
Before walking out on the court, Coach Cami Carlson reminded her team in the locker room that no matter what the outcome of the game each player should realize where they are and what it took to reach this point.
"You are in an enviable position," Carlson quietly told the girls in the locker room prior to the game. "Very few athletes get to this point and many would kill for the chance to get here. No matter what happens out on the floor tonight, you are already winners. I will be proud of you no matter what happens."
But Coach Carlson knew her team would not be satisfied with anything less than a win. Despite their best efforts, they did not find a way to finish off their incredible season with that important victory. And in the end it was Emery who prevailed 55-42 over the devastated Dinos.
On Saturday night Carbon jumped out on top early in the game with key three pointers from Pappas and Pollock. They held onto the lead the entire first half of play despite tough runs by the Lady Spartans.
In the third quarter it was Carbon up by 10 when they suddenly found themselves having trouble on the defensive end, picking up fouls like a kid picks up candy on Halloween. Emery was able to frustrate the Dino offense on the other end and the tide turned in favor of the Spartans.
Emery was able to go to the free throw line 32 times and picked up almost half of their points (25) from there. Carbon was awarded only seven shots all night and made five. It was one of the many things that seemed to disrupt the Dinos game.
A season of triumphs for the team felt like it dissolved in the final minutes of the championship game for the Carbon Lady Dinos as the game slipped away with the loss to the Emery Spartans Saturday night. The team was so overcome with their feeling as they tried to deal with the unthinkable that they could barely make it out on the floor to accept their trophy.
Pappas scored 15 points and pulled in 15 rebounds as they tried to overtake the Spartans. She was only able to make two from the field in the second half of play. Pollock put up 10 and Kristin Jewkes added five.
The players were barely able to contain their emotions the following day. Pappas spoke of the frustration and there was even a little anger to her voice as she tried to make sense of the disparity of the calls.
"I don't like to blame. I am proud of our team especially the seniors. We have been playing together since sixth grade and it is hard," said Pappas.
She went on to say that they would focus on the wins over Cedar and Delta as the tournament highlights. "Beating Delta was sweet revenge. The game against Cedar was a real battle and gut check. It showed everyone just how bad we wanted it...." as she became overwhelmed with emotions.
Senior Sara Potts also struggled to get words out. "It was a heart breaker. Especially when we knew we could do it. I am proud of our whole team. We are really good and we had a great season. We can't forget that. Hopefully down the road Coach Carlson's words before the game will mean something more, but for now it just hurts."
Mariah Pollock, also a senior, echoed many of her other teammates sentiments. "It's all so hard.... I wish we could have pulled it out for our coach and team and fans."
She admitted that just making it to the tournament was a special treat and she had no regrets about the effort her and the team put out there.
"We tried to be strong and do what it would take to win. Our team is more like a family. We worked together as a team and we know how hard we worked. We wanted it so bad...... it just hurts," she concluded.
Senior Kristen Jewkes added, "we played well all season and it was the worst time for us especially in the second half not to have a good game. It was definitely good just to get there (the state tournament) and winning that double overtime game was good. I was glad to get the chance to play in the (championship) game."
Jewkes now has another mission. "This loss will motivate me in track, especially in the high jump. I hopefully will do well in the state meet in high jump, I don't want to lose again."
The team has many accomplishments to look back on both as a team and individuals. The Lady Dinos finished the season at 20-2. They had a 14-game winning streak before the final game. They swept through region play and outscored their opponents by almost 21 points a game. Pappas led the state in steals with 113, averaging over five per game. Kylee Lessar was seventh in the state in rebounds at over five per game and Pappas was eighth. Potts and Miranda Averett were also in the top twenty in rebounds. Pappas was fifth in assists with 68, Mariah Pollock was 10th with 55 and Averett ranked 14th with 38. Pappas was also fifth in three pointers with 40.
"What I said before the game was easier to say than it was to accept after the game," said Coach Carlson on Monday. "In a couple of days we should be able to look back and see the big picture. I also realize it could have been worse, I keep looking back to that Cedar game and realize it could have ended there. I want to make sure people know that when we were down by five and Tia (Pappas) got open and hit that three, it was coach Cristen Johnson who designed that play and that really saved the game."
Carlson had nothing but praise for her team and their accomplishments over the entire season. Each of them walked away a winner no matter the final outcome of the last game.
(Kevin Scannell contributed to this article)