She was a fine player, and a great fan,and her exuberance elevated the team
By Bruce SmithMatchup
The Springville girls basketball team’s 2011-12 season was Meghan Paynter’s “glory days,” and she knew it.
“I was known for being strong in the post and boxing out,” she said.
It turned out she was known for a lot more.
“She gave the team all her support,” said coach Nancy Warner. “Every team needs a player like her. She was always happy to be part of the team and she showed it.”
When there was a reason to cheer, Paynter did it. Nobody jumped higher, ran faster or smiled bigger than she did when the Devils made a big play on the court. Her playing time might have been limited, but there was no limit to her exuberance.
“I didn’t get to play much, but I loved being able to cheer them on and give them self-esteem to accomplish the team’s goals,” said Paynter. “The goal was to win state and do the best that we could. I had it in my mind that we could win state. I liked the way we were developing.”
The Devils fell just short of that goal, but surprised a lot of people with their effort. Paynter was on the court for the last few minutes of the championship game. Springville’s surge epitomized her playing career.
Paynter said she started playing competitive basketball in the third grade. She played city league ball every year after that and joined the Springville program in high school. She started on the sophomore and junior varsity teams and was one of the top players. Her senior year, though, she learned that her role would change, and quickly found her niche.
“I would try to make everyone happy,” she said. “I’ve always been loud and obnoxious. It has always been fun to make everyone laugh.”
There were plenty of times when the Devils needed it. At Springville, girls basketball was a big deal, mostly because of the team’s recent success. They had made it the state championship game three straight years and had won the title the last two.
There was no doubt about game days. Paynter said she enjoyed wearing dresses to school for home games and their “traveling gear” when they played on the road.
She said the team’s turning point came at about midseason.
“Coach said we weren’t taking them (the coaches) seriously,” she recalled. “They said they were here to help us succeed … not just talk about it.”
Psychology was Paynter’s favorite class, and she recognized the role it played on the team this year.
The Devils had a 4-8 record at the time, but the coaches and players then combined to inspire each other to eventually make the 4A state tournament. By the time they played their first state tourney game against Cyprus, every player had caught Paynter’s anxiety.
Paynter said her favorite game was against Mountain Crest in the 4A state tournament. The game came down to the final seconds before the Devils earned a 61-59 win.
“That was our team’s best game,” she said. “It was such a hard loss to them in the preseason. I was excited to play them at state, but I had mixed feelings about playing them again. It was nerve-wracking.”
The Devils season ended on the court at the state championship game, and Paynter said the season-long ride was something she will always remember. After graduation, she planned to go to Snow College, where she had earned an academic scholarship, and then follow her parents in becoming a teacher.
“I want to teach second grade,” she said. “My second-grade teacher was great and she had a big influence on me.”
If this basketball season is any indication, she will likely play a big influence on many others, too.