Salem Hills eliminates Cedar behind star forward Lauren Gustin

Cedar vs. Salem Hills, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 1, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

OREM – Cedar was forced to try and compete in the 4A state quarterfinals without star Japrix Weaver, but head coach Corry Nielsen was not making excuses when his team lost 58-48 to No. 1 seeded Salem Hills Thurdsay at the UCCU Center.

“We don’t care who’s out there. Every play’s the same and we play hard,” Nielsen said. “We don’t complain over injuries. Obviously we have a very good player out, and sure that hurts. But we just got good effort out of every single one of them out there. We got tremendous effort and I’m very proud of my team.”

Weaver injured her knee at practice (likely a torn ACL) earlier in the week. Her sister, Dream Weaver, did her best to carry on the family name and the Cedar No. 1 seed, but it was clear the Lady Reds weren’t quite the same team that won Region 9.

Cedar’s Logann Laws (4), Cedar vs. Salem Hills, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 1, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“We had heard about (the injury), but that didn’t really concern us,” Salem Hills coach Kyle Francom said. “We talked about it before the game with the girls, that you can’t take anything for grated, that you’ve got to be vigilant. Anything can happen. That’s what makes a state tournament so great,”

Cedar’s biggest problem was not the missing personnel on its team, but the difficulty in stopping the star of its opponent. Salem Hills forward Lauren Gustin was dominant. The 6-foot-1 senior hoisted her team on her back and carried it to the semifinals. Gustin finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two assists. The only thing that slowed her down was foul trouble in the first half.

“It really takes a full team effort to get Lauren to have a game like that,” Francom said. “They commit so much to try and stop her that the other girls have to be patient on how and when they get her the ball. The other girls did a good job of that, especially in the second half.”

At one point in the first half, Gustin had 15 of her team’s 17 points, including a swishing 3-pointer that put the Skyhawks ahead 17-12 with 6:25 to go in the second quarter. But not long after that, she picked up her third foul and Cedar made headway with the star on the bench. Dream Weaver and Carley Davis led a charge that got the game tied up at 21-21 with 1:20 to go until halftime.

Cedar’s Dream Weaver (00), Cedar vs. Salem Hills, Girls Basketball, Orem, Utah, Mar. 1, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

It was 25-23 at intermission for the Skyhawks and Cedar tied it briefly on a basket by Davis to start the second half. But Salem Hills seemed to re-focus its energy on getting Gustin shots and the plan worked. The big post player hit two straight baskets and had assists on a pair of 3-pointers by Kaylee Brimhall as the Skyhawks went on a 17-7 run. Dixie Lainhart capped the run with a corner trey that made it 42-30 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.

Cedar never got closer than eight the rest of the game with the Skyhawks hitting 9 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter to take the win.

Nielsen was pleased with his team’s effort and the things it accomplished this season, despite the sour ending.

“Fantastic season,” he said. “Our goal every season is to be region champions. That’s first and foremost and every thing else will take care of itself. We have some great seniors. Our seniors bought into everything we were trying to do and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Davis led Cedar with 13 points and added six rebounds. Dream Weaver had 10 points and 12 boards. Freshman Logann Laws had 11 points and four steals.

The Lady Reds shot just 15 of 52 in the game (28.8 percent), but outrebounded Salem hills 37-28. Cedar finishes the year with an 18-5 record.

Salem Hills, 22-1 overall, will play in the early semifinal at 2:30 p.m. at the UCCU Center and will face the winner of Thursday’s late game between Spanish Fork and Logan.

4A first round results
Upper bracket
Spanish Fork 72, Stansbury 53
Logan 57, Pine View 49
Cedar 56, Bear River 34
Salem Hills 62, Tooele 25

Lower bracket
Hurricane 62, Green Canyon 53
Mt. View 57, Juan Diego 29
Lehi 44, Bonneville 38
Desert Hills 50, Ridgeline 49

4A quarterfinal matchups (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Upper bracket
Spanish Fork (14-7) vs. Logan (18-4), 9:10 p.m.
Salem Hills 58, Cedar 48 

Lower bracket
Hurricane 53, Mt. View 44
Lehi 45, Desert Hills 41

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