Championship form: Highland girls take region, state championships
Mar 02, 2020 14h46
● By Josh McFadden
Freshman Sosefina Langi shoots a free throw in a gritty victory over Olympus. Langi has been a major addition to the Ram lineup leading the team in scoring and steals. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
With just three blemishes on its record, the Highland girls basketball team rode into the Class 5A state tournament with the No. 3 ranking and a region title under its belt.
Many of the Rams’ games weren’t even close.
Highland went 18-3 overall and 12-2 in league play. The Rams’ only region defeats came at the hands of Hillcrest in a 49-34 surprise on Jan. 14 and in a 45-42 regular season-ending setback to East on Valentine’s Day. Otherwise, Highland was dominant.
The Rams won nine league games by at least 12 points and defeated five opponents by at least 27 points. Defense was the name of the game for Highland. The stingy unit allowed just 38 points per game all year. The most the team gave up in a single contest was 52 in a five-point win over Juan Diego back on Dec. 10. Otherwise, Highland never surrendered more than 49 points in a game. The team held 11 foes to under 40 points and three to fewer than 30 points. On Feb. 11, Brighton managed just 19 against the ferocious Ram defense. Murray had that same number on Jan. 31 when the Rams won by 28.
The offense wasn’t shabby either.
Senior Kaija Glasker led the team in the regular season with 13.7 points per game. She also paced the squad with 8.2 rebounds per contest. But it was freshman sensation Soseina Langi who really turned heads. The ninth grader was right behind Glasker in both categories. She chipped in 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. Langi was also the leader in steals with 63 on the year.
Those two players did most of the damage on the scoreboard, but others contributed too. Paige Cooper, Ku’ulei Maukaui, Briana Neeleman and Cecilia Olevao all helped in the scoring column and in other ways. Keep an eye on Highland in the next couple of years because all four of those players, along with Langi, return next season. In fact, on Highland’s 16-player varsity roster, there were only four seniors.
The Rams may have ended the regular season on a sour note with the loss to East, but the team had a chance to redeem itself at state. Highland squared off with Region 5’s Woods Cross on Feb. 20 for a second-round home game. The matchup wouldn’t be an easy one for Highland. Woods Cross handed the Rams a 46-42 loss on Dec. 4. But Highland got its revenge, with a 43-33 victory.
From there the Rams' games moved to the Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah. In the quarterfinals, they faced off against Salem Hills in a low-scoring defensive battle. The halftime score was only 10-7, but the scoring picked up in the second half as Highland held on to win by a score of 34-30.
In the semifinal, Highland faced the Bruins of Mountain View High School (Orem). The Rams scored a third of their 54 points in the final quarter and walked away with a 54-45 victory.
Finally, the Rams' stellar season culminated in the State Championship game against Springville High School. Glasker led the way, just as she had throughout the season, scoring a game-high 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. She helped the Rams build a 21-8 lead going into halftime. The Red Devils of Springville tried to narrow the gap in the second half but weren't able to close the gap, resulting in a 46-34 victory for Highland High School.
It is the first girls basketball state championship for Highland Highschool in 36 years according to the Deseret News, which also named Glasker the MVP of its All-Tournament Team.