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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Program hopes to ascend in Hunsaker’s second year

Jan 19, 2017 05:31PM ● By Travis Barton

Senior Ella Eriacho turns her defender on Jan. 10 at Olympus High School. (Ellis Hunsaker)

By Travis Barton | [email protected]
In her second year, Head Coach Whitney Hunsaker is working to build a winning girls basketball program at Olympus High School.
The Titans were 4-11 at press time, with a team goal of finishing the season with a winning record.
“We went through a phase where we couldn’t make a layup,” Hunsaker said. “We’re making our layups now.”
Hunsaker said she’s happy with the incremental progress the team has made. With only three seniors on the team, varsity experience was sparse to start the year but has grown with each game.
“We’re definitely progressing in the right direction,” Hunsaker said.
Senior point guard Samantha Sheets added that progress will “kind of surprise other teams.”
 While the Titans don’t have much height in the team, what may surprise teams is their quickness and athleticism.
“So we do a really good job in transition, exploiting teams in that part,” Hunsaker said.
Sheets added that their speed allows them to transition fast and outrun teams.
“We use our athleticism to get underneath the basket for layups … I think that’s how we’ll win games,” Sheets, a team captain, said.
The epitome of that speed comes from Sheets, who Hunsaker said is “probably one of the fastest people I know with the ball.” Sheets is averaging over three steals a game, one of the 4A leaders in that category.
“I’m quick rather than fast,” Sheets said. “That’s kind of my thing, I can get to the basket fast so it’s harder to defend.”
Sheets, along with co-captain senior Madisen Gladstone, are two of the leading scorers in 4A so far this season, averaging 13 and 12 points per game, respectively. Coming into the season, Hunsaker anticipated them to be the team’s “powerhouses.”
“I’ve expected greatness out of them and they have done that,” Hunsaker said.
One of those greatness moments came against Judge Memorial on Jan. 3 where Sheets finished with a career high 31 points.
“Madi was out with an injury so I had to step it up. I just got on a run and kept going, some teams I match better against,” Sheets said. “It was disappointing though cause we still lost … but hopefully we can look at what we can do better to improve ourselves.”
The team’s progression has coincided with the growth of the two captains. Hunsaker said it was a role they had to step in to.
“(Leadership) was something they kinda had to learn … they do keep us on task in practice and they expect a lot of their teammates. They expect a lot of themselves so they’re holding everyone accountable,” Hunsaker said.
Team goals are to finish with a winning record, qualify for state and win their first-round game. But for that to happen, Hunsaker said they’ll need two things: rebounds and other scorers to step up.  
Due to their size disadvantage, opponents grab plenty of offensive rebounds. “If we want to win, we need to limit (opponents) to one shot,” Hunsaker said.
Whether the Titans achieve their goals or not, the girls basketball program is growing. Up to 24 players this season compared to 17 from the previous, Sheets said it’s due to Hunsaker.
“It’s a great program; we’re all best friends and I love Whitney as a coach too. She’s built an amazing program, she’s awesome,” Sheets said.
Hunsaker clicked all the boxes players wanted in a new coach, especially her understanding of the game.
“She’s a really smart coach and knows what each person can do individually. She rarely tells you not to do something, like shoot, and that’s really nice,” Sheets said.
Hunsaker said building relationships with the girls has been her favorite part of the season so far.
“I love my kids. Even though we’ve struggled at times, they’ve had a great work ethic this year,” Hunsaker said.