OGDEN – The overriding theme at the 3A Girls State Tournament has been defense and Desert Hills coach Chris Allred wants everyone to know his team’s success starts and ends at the defensive end.
The Lady Thunder held Snow Canyon to 30 points on 18 percent shooting and Haley Bodnar blocked nine shots as Desert Hills won its semifinal 40-30 over the Lady Warriors.
“We have the best defensive team in the state,” Allred said. “We had some specific things we wanted to do – limit the dribble penetration and contest shots – we felt like if did that we’d put ourselves in good position to win the game. And Haley had nine blocked shots. you’re not going to have many easy baskets with her there.”
Bodnar struggled offensively, making just 1 of 6 shots, but was a rebounding and defensive juggernaut. Meanwhile, Blair Bliss was running up and down and all around the court for Desert Hills, scoring 20 points and grabbing five rebounds. The speedy guard played all 32 minutes of the game.
“We knew it was going to be a rough game,” Bliss said. “I knew they were going to front Haley and I was going to have to step up. Our guards did a great job and so did our posts.”
Bodnar said she’s used to the target on her back as a senior star center in prep basketball and she takes pleasure in impacting the game in other ways.
“That’s the way things go,” Bodnar said. “I might not score the points I’d like to, but I know I have different roles in different games. Defense is my favorite part of the game. Nothing feels better than getting a block.”
It was clear early on that the game would be a defensive war, which played strongly into the hands of the Lady Thunder. The Warriors managed just three points in the first quarter and nine by halftime. As the third quarter commenced, Desert Hills’ 26-14 looked insurmountable, and it was.
“Sometimes it comes down to who’s going to be the grittiest team and execute the best,” Allred said.
Bliss had three of DH’s five points in a 5-3 first quarter. Bliss added seven more in the second quarter, all in a row during a personal 7-0 run. She hit a driving bucket, a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer that changed a tight 9-7 game into a sizable 16-7 Thunder lead.
Snow Canyon star Amy Harris was a direct example of the Lady Warriors offensive struggles in the game. Though she did have 10 points, she shot just 2 for 23 including missing all eight of her 3-pointer attempts.
The rest of the team was just 7 for 27, so the rough shooting was universal and a little epidemic.
As for the Thunder, an 11 for 37 shooting day was not impressive, but they were able to hit enough shots in the first half to build that double-digit lead and hang on in the second half. A Grace Walton trey brought SC to within 33-26 with 1:13 left in the game, but the Thunder made 6 of 8 free throws in the final 70 seconds to seal the win.
For Allred, he will be the head coach in his third championship game, one as a boys coach for Pine View in the 2000s and last year in DH’s loss to Snow Canyon. He is 0-2, but hopes to turn that around Saturday. He will also be coaching against an old friend and foe in Ken Robinson, Dixie’s head coach. Robinson coached the Dixie boys at the same time Allred coached the Pine View boys.
“It’s going to be like old times,” Allred said. “We’ve coached against each other a number of times and we’ve had a lot of great games and tomorrow should be the same thing.”
The Dixie-Desert Hills championship game is at 5 p.m.
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