ST. GEORGE — Sometimes a strong Thunder storm can cool off a hot day. Or, in this case, a hot team.
It probably came as a surprise to most observers when the Desert Hills High School girls basketball team dominated the Lady Panthers of Pine View High School, including the Thunder’s coach Ron Denos. But, on the other hand, he wasn’t surprised.
Pine View had been rolling along on a seven-game winning streak that included all three Region 9 games it had played on the way to an overall record of 8-1. Desert Hills was winless through 10 games on the season, including two region games.
But the Thunder was a whole different team Thursday night as it thumped the Panthers, 56-51, at Desert Hills.
“Yeah, it was a surprise we won because we haven’t been winning,” Denos said. “But we haven’t played to our ability, so I’m not surprised. I always thought we could be right there, but we just haven’t played.
“It just shows what we can do when we put it together.”
The defending region champs showed balanced scoring with three players in double figures – Katelyn Phillips and Kellie Nance had 12 points and Annie Frame 10. Jess Mathis added 9.
The Thunder trailed early after Pine View got three-pointers from Saraven Allen and Dawn Mead to take a 6-4 lead at the 5:28 mark in the first quarter.
But a couple of minutes later, after the teams exchanged free throws, Nance hit a short jumper off an inbounds play then followed with two more baskets at the rim to give Desert Hills an 11-7 lead. They would not trail again, although Pine View came back to briefly tie the game.
Denos said the key to the game was “us not losing focus and staying the whole game, instead of just getting ourselves down. Just stayed with it and stayed up.”
The first quarter ended with Desert Hills holding a 12-7 lead, but Pine View would push back in the second.
Claire Newby, who had a game-high 15 points, scored on two slicing drives through the heart of the Thunder’s zone defense to pull the Panthers to within 14-13 midway through the quarter, but Frame countered with a one-handed runner from the baseline.
Pine View’s Allen, however, grabbed a loose ball at Desert Hill’s end of the court and went coast to coast for a layup, adding a free throw for a three-point play and a 16-16 tie.
Nance hit a turnaround jumper from the lane and added a 15-foot jumper from the elbow to give the Thunder some breathing room until Sophia Jenson hit a three-pointer to close out the scoring in the second quarter, which ended with Desert Hills clinging to a 22-21 lead.
The third quarter was pivotal, especially the first 35 seconds.
Mathis opened with a three-pointer and Phillips added a pair of free throws before the Panthers knew what hit them. Pine View immediately called a time out to regroup.
Allen, who scored 13 points on the night, countered with two free throws of her own, but Phillips nailed a three-pointer to give Desert Hills a 30-23 lead. The Panthers were unable to gain ground by the end of the quarter, as Phillips put back an offensive rebound at the buzzer to put the Thunder up 38-31.
It was a frantic fourth quarter as both teams pushed the pace and the Panthers tried to turn up the defensive pressure.
Three minutes into the quarter, Desert Hills had extended its lead to 11.
Despite having the lead, the Thunder left the door open by fouling, sending the Panthers to the line 19 times in the quarter. But Pine View was unable to fully take advantage, making just 10.
Still, the Panthers were down by only five after Allen got a steal and went the length of the court for a layup to make the score 53-48 with 1:40 left in the game.
But Frame got behind Pine View’s press for a layup and Mathis later added a free throw to ice the game.
Both teams are in action Jan. 16, with Desert Hills traveling to Hurricane High School to play the Lady Tigers while Pine View hosts the Cedar High Lady Reds.
In other Region 9 games Thursday, Snow Canyon and Dixie both won.
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