Prep girls' basketball: Juan Diego coach preaches sharing

Prep girls basketball • Juan Diego uses a pressure defense to spark its offense.
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Draper • Even a team that has won five of its first six games has plenty to learn.

And so it was that Juan Diego's weekend became equal parts basketball games and study hall, with lots of lessons and material to be studied and reviewed.

The Soaring Eagle played three games in three days as part of its annual Christmas Classic eight-team tournament, and they learned what it will take to play multiple times in a short span at the state tournament in February.

Juan Diego also learned it's far from perfect after enduring its first loss of the season Saturday against Richfield. And in the process, the Soaring Eagle got a lesson in the importance of sharing the ball.

A talented roster features multiple offensive options — Dominique and Monique Mills, Lancee Whetman and Melanie Mecham among them — but it's still trying to find the balance between making the extra pass and when it's time to shoot.

"The challenge with having so many scorers is to continue to make the extra pass," Juan Diego coach Natalie Williams said. "Sometimes we get caught up in dribbling too much and trying to do it on their own. We need to work more on running the offense and being patient.

"We are a team that scores a lot of points and they like to score quick. They need to slow down a little bit."

Clearly, what the Soaring Eagle know what to do is play in transition. They already have schooled their share of opponents this season, and their fast-break offense was in rhythm even in defeat.

A steal by Whetman, outlet to Mecham, dish to a Mills sister for an easy two. Couldn't draw it up any better on a chalkboard.

"In practice, we work mostly on transition," said Mecham, a junior point guard. "Because our team is faster than most teams. We have the speed to push it."

The transition game is jump-started by a full-court press that has shaken less-experienced teams early this season. Richfield, however, was able to maneuver through the press and found easy baskets.

"Most of the time we use it for mostly the whole game," Mecham said about the pressure defense.

Whetman said learning from Williams, a former Olympian and WNBA player, has been beneficial. Juan Diego has won 25 of 26 games under the coach.

"She really knows the game a lot from all her experience," Whetman said. "She brings a lot of knowledge of the game to help us out and really pushes us in practice."

Top runners

Timpanogos' Jake Heslington placed 28th overall in the boys' race and Herriman's Lucy Biles finished 52nd in the girls' race earlier this month at the Nike Cross Nationals cross country race in Portland, Ore. Both ran as individuals after qualifying out of the US Southwest Region.