The Lady Dinos of Carbon High were expected to do well in the 3A division during this years basketball season. Some in the community expected a state championship; the girls themselves expected no less. But the twists and turns of the basketball season, along with bracketing that at times favored the team and other times didn't, led a season record of 21-3, with two of those losses coming to the state runner-up Snow Canyon and the other to state champion Wasatch.
The Lady Dinos registered the best record and finish at state, third place, since the championship year of 1997.
The state tournament really began at home against Canyon View two weeks ago, but many teams only see that as a preliminary to playing in games held at one of the college fieldhouses in the state. This years 3A tournament was held at Burns Arena on the Dixie State College campus in St. George. The games began on Feb. 28 and ended the next Saturday, March 2.
In the first round of the tournament Carbon faced the Bear River Lady Bears. Courtnie Woerner, the second leading scorer in the state was obviously this teams heart because when she suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the game, the Lady Bears quickly fell to the Lady Dinos defense. Carbon won the game in big fashion 59-36.
That first quarter was close until the tall center went out. By the end of the period Carbon was ahead 16-13, but had only just begun to fight.
In the second period 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. By half time the score was 34-21.
In the second half Carbon tore the Lady Bears 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 as they only allowed Bear River 15 points.
The victory set up a grudge match between Carbon and Snow Canyon. The grudge between the two schools emanated 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 tourney.
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.
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 in last years tournament wanted no part of being relegated to the second again.
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 started 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 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.
The final quarter seemed to become the battle of the mythical jump balls. Players would grab onto the ball and someone from the opposing team would also latch onto it causing a jump ball to be called. The defensive intensity of both teams picked up.
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 to play in a Carbon uniform, wanted that game to be 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.
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 Carbon increased their defensive pressure.
In that last minute it seemed Carbon couldn't buy a basket. They either couldn't get the shot to fall or it was tipped away before they got the chance. 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 got it to Cassie Warburton just a little too late to have it launched as a three pointer. It was the end of a dream for the Lady Dinos, who had hoped to make up for the second place finish in volleyball by winning it all on the basketball court. It was on to the third-fourth place game against Hurricane.
Saturday dawned sunny, but cold and blustery. By game time at 2:30 p.m. the sun had warmed up 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. 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 only one of the three teams in the tournament 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 the steals. 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. 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 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.
However, at the beginning of the fourth period the scoring drought was lifted as Carbon began to run and gun. Warburton three pointers put the team well ahead for good and by the 4:30 mark the Lady Dinos were in control 41-28. 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 their points came off free throws.
In the last couple of minutes, the game came down to a fouling marathon. But Carbon prevailed 50-40 and third place was theirs.
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.
"You could have just given up after yesterday, but you didn't," principal Bob Cox told the girls. You came back and did the job."