The Eagle High girls basketball team isn’t used to chasing an opponent, but for the first 12 minutes of their 5A state tournament opener against Highland, that’s exactly what the Mustangs did.
Eagle overcame a nine-point deficit in the first half for a 68-44 victory over the Rams, advancing to the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
“Our defense really sparks us, and once we get rolling, we play a lot of kids, so we’re able to really feed off that,” Eagle coach Cody Pickett said. “Cassidy (Tiegs) played great in that second quarter. She was getting steals and hitting shots. It was big for us.”
The senior guard and four-year starter knocked down a 3 with 3:28 remaining before halftime to pull the Mustangs within 26-21. It was the spark Pickett was referring too, and it led to a Tiegs steal and easy layup less than a minute later.
By halftime, Eagle led 31-26, and the Mustangs’ lead only extended from there.
“I think (Highland) came out pretty strong just moving the ball and really aggressive,” Tiegs said. “For us, it was just state jitters that lasted a little bit longer than we would have liked.”
Tiegs, who is Eagle’s career scoring leader with 1,305 points and counting, finished with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Junior Janie King led the Mustangs in scoring for the second straight game with 14 points — including a 2-for-3 performance from 3-point range.
McKenna Emerson kept up her torrid pace off the bench, contributing 12 points, four steals, four rebounds and two assists in less than 16 minutes on the court.
“We just need to stay as a team and do what we do all the time,” King said. “It should work out in the end.”
Eagle has not advanced to the state championship game since 1998. The Mustangs lost 72-52 to Mountain View in the semifinals last year, losing then-junior Abby Mangum to a torn ACL.
“I hope we don’t think about (that game) at all. That was a rough night,” Pickett said. “We lost Abby to an ACL, the fire alarm went off three or four times. It was absolute chaos.”
EAGLE 68, HIGHLAND 44
Highland (13-10) — Makenna Baker 15 points, Bailey Farrer 2, Mary Calley 3, Kia Pokibro 9, Lexi Rowe 4, Alli Thayne 11. Rebound leaders: Baker, Rowe 8. Assist leader: Rowe 3.
Eagle (24-1) — Abby Mangum 10 points, Dana Murray 1, Eliza deVera 2, Janie King 14, McKenna Emerson 12, Cassidy Tiegs 12, Meghan Boyd 4, Jaimee McKinnie 7, Katelyn Murray 4, Gabi Peters 2. Rebound leaders: Tiegs, K. Murray 5. Assist leader: Teigs 5.