The Union girls basketball team not only pulled off an upset Saturday night in their 4A district title game against Skyview, the Titans also made history.
Surprising Skyview on its home floor, Union won 56-44, finally getting the best of the Storm for the first time under fourth-year coach Roger Shepard as well as winning the first girls district basketball championship in school history.
Jessica Chatman led the Titans (16-6) with 15 points, while Tuileisu Anderson scored 13 and Tessa Vanderpool added 10.
The juniors had never beaten Skyview as Union players — Chatman, the exception, who played for Evergreen early in her high school career — so a mix of exhales and shrieks filled the Titan sideline at the final buzzer.
“It’s just hard to beat Skyview,” Shepard said. “We had to have our best effort to beat a team of that caliber, and we did.”
Skyview (14-7), the 2012 Class 4A state champion, had been unstoppable through the final weeks, winning its last 11 games before the district title matchup. The Storm had also won their two regular-season matchups against the Titans, by 10 points and seven points.
Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher would later recite an old sports adage about the difficulty in beating the same team three times in one season. And that task became doubly hard after Union revealed a lineup change Saturday night.
The Titan coaching staff felt the team needed to play smaller and quicker and inserted senior Katie Burbank into the starting five. Although Skyview held an 16-11 lead after the first quarter, Union’s swiftness and energy began to pay dividends when it counted.
“I think the pressure was on (Skyview) to beat us,” Chatman said, “and not on us, and so we knew if we came into this game winning every single ball and boxing out then we would win it.”
The score was even at 21-21 midway through the second, when 5-foot-4 senior guard Kendra Preuninger stroked a step-back jumper to break the tie. Then, Vanderpool showed the extra effort, scoring a layup on Union’s third opportunity at the rim to give the Titans their largest lead, 25-21, to that point.
The Titans, playing lock-down defense and holding Skyview to one-shot possessions, then completed a 9-2 run before a pair of Storm free throws snapped the streak.
However, Union held Skyview without a field goal for a span that lasted more than nine minutes through the third and fourth quarters as the lead swelled to double digits.
“We just came out with a lack of energy tonight,” said Buscher, who credited Union’s effort, ”which led to poor shooting.”
Both teams will host games Tuesday in the opening round of the bi-district tournament. But Saturday was all about Union.
“It was a monumental night for the Titans,” Shepard said. “Kids get to hang a banner.”