Layden leads the Starzz to victory

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    By SARA ANDERSON

    Excitement was in the air again at the Delta Center as Frank Layden debuted leading his Starzz to a 90-80 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.

    “Gosh, this was like a birthday party,” Layden said. “I haven’t had so much fun winning a game since my high school days.”

    Layden, who replaced Denise Taylor as head coach of the Starzz on Monday, said that his team’s aggressive play made the difference.

    “I think the difference that I saw in the team is that we went out defensively,” Layden said. “We got after them defensively, and when you go out and play hard on defense, good things happen on offensive.”

    The Starzz, who were blasted by Phoenix 96-63 in their first meeting of the season, were hoping for revenge.

    Utah dominated Phoenix in the second half, making 7 of 8 three pointers and forcing 22 turnovers in the game.

    Frustrated by her team’s play, Phoenix coach Cheryl Miller got two technical fouls, and was thrown out of the game with 13 minutes remaining.

    The Starzz took advantage of her absence, building a 65-51 lead.

    But Phoenix, lead behind Jennifer Gillom’s 31 points, cut Utah’s lead to four with just six minutes left.

    The Starzz, known for losing games in the last few minutes, were able to hit eight free throws and held on to win the game.

    “It felt really good today,” said Utah forward Olympia Scott, who had 14 points and 6 rebounds. “Everyone was playing our own game. And one thing coach said was make sure you don’t play afraid to make a mistake, and I think that helped.”

    Utah, caught up in the excitement of the coaching change, started the game slow. But, thanks to the 8,624 screaming fans, the momentum quickly changed, and Utah took a 38-31 point lead into the half.

    The Starzz, lead by LaTonya Johnson who had 15 points, had five players in double figures.

    The Starzz, who reactivated guard Tammi Reiss after her sprained ankle took her out of the last four games, will now travel to Houston to face the defending champion Houston Comets on Thursday.

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