Skyline girls face stiff test to qualify for postseason basketball tournament
Jan 28, 2019 04:46PM
● By Josh McFadden
Head coach Sam White talks to his team during a timeout. The Skyline girls basketball team went 3-8 in non-region play and is in a battle for playoff qualification. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
Four spots for six teams: That’s what the Skyline girls basketball team has in front of it to get into the Class 5A state tournament. It’s no easy task.
Now that Region 6 play is in full swing, the Eagles have reached the most important portion of their schedule. If they can beat out two region rivals, they’ll get back to the playoffs.
In what has been a rebuilding year, more postseason success is no guarantee.
The Eagles are no strangers to winning games, but victories have been harder to come by in 2018–19. Last season, Skyline lost in the state semifinals to Timpview. Two years ago, Skyline celebrated the 4A state title by defeating Judge Memorial. Skyline also lost in the championship game in 2003, 2014 and 2015, and won other state crowns in 2006 and 2008. The Eagles haven’t missed the playoffs this century.
A mostly new cast of players and a new head coach, Sam White, hopes to carry the tradition.
Skyline took its lumps in the pre-region portion of its schedule, going 3-8. The Eagles got past Sky View, Brighton and Hillcrest in the early parts of the season. Now that league play is under way, Skyline is zeroed in on playing its best ball of the year.
The Eagles dropped their first two league games, 61-38 to Skyline on Jan. 8 and 47-31 to Murray on Jan. 11. However, the team bounced back nicely with its first region victory on Jan. 15 when it outpaced West 66-59. It was Skyline’s third consecutive victory over the Panthers.
Against West, Skyline tallied a season high in points, putting up 33 points in both halves. The Eagles were up big at halftime, 33-18, and were up 47-33 heading into the fourth quarter. West made things interesting in the fourth by outscoring Skyline 26-19, but the Eagles held on. Three Eagles reached double figures in scoring, led by junior Bella Roden and Kiana Eskelson, a senior, who had 12 points apiece. Amit Lustgarten chipped in 11 points.
The Eagles will need the offense to continue improving if they hope to finish in the top four of region standings and get back to the playoffs. Skyline has had some struggles offensively, though it has excelled on the defensive end. Through the first 14 games, Skyline had limited six opponents to 50 points or fewer. The team was giving up just 52 points per game. Its defense was at its best on Dec. 13 when it clamped down on Hillcrest and limited the Huskies to a mere 19 points.
Skyline hosted East on Jan. 18 (after our press deadline) and entertains Highland on Jan. 25. The Eagles face all five region foes twice and finish the regular season Feb. 12 at Highland. If they qualify, the Eagles will continue their season in the 5A state tournament, which takes place Feb. 18–23 at Salt Lake Community College.