Thunder rides huge second quarter to victory, state playoff berth

Kami Bliss, of Desert Hills, finds an open lane to the basket on a fast break against Canyon View in the Thunder's 64-58 win over the visiting Falcons, St. George, Utah, Feb. 15, 2018 | Photo by Michael Rinker, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Desert Hills outscored Canyon View in just one of the four quarters they played Thursday night, but it was a doozie, propelling the Lady Thunder to a 64-58 victory and a berth in the state championship tournament.

Canyon View’s Jordan Nielson is trapped in the corner by Desert Hills defenders Kellie Nance and Katelyn Philips (background) as Thunder head coach Ron Denos offers encouragement, St. George, Utah, Feb. 15, 2018 | Photo by Michael Rinker, St. George News

The Thunder came into the regular-season finale against the last-place Falcons knowing it was “win and we’re in,” but they looked a little shaky out of the gate. They fell behind 4-0 and were out of rhythm, prompting head coach Ron Denos to call a time out after just three minutes. It was similar to the previous game, in which he had to call a time out even sooner to settle his team in its win Tuesday against Dixie.

After Canyon View hit a couple of free throws to extend its lead, the Thunder’s Jessica Mathis drove into the heart of the Falcons’ defense for a stop-and-pop jumper from 10 feet to give her team its first points at the 4:14 mark.

The teams exchanged baskets through the quarter until the Falcons’ Brielle Fullmer hit a 3-pointer at the end to put Canyon View up 14-8.

Then came the second quarter.

The Thunder’s Kami Bliss fed Kellie Nance in the paint for a 10-foot jumper, but Canyon View’s Ashlyn Banks hit a free throw and Bryn Banks added a layup to extend the Falcons’ lead to 17-10.

From that point on, however, it was the Jess Mathis show. She stepped into a 3-point shot from near the top of the key at the 5:44 mark of the quarter. Ashlyn Banks countered with a layup after she grabbed an offensive rebound. Seconds later, Mathis drilled another 3-pointer from the exact same spot, pulling Desert Hills ever closer at 19-16.

Canyon View’s Bryn Banks pulls down a rebound behind Desert Hills’ Kami Bliss, St. George, Utah, Feb. 15, 2018 | Photo by Michael Rinker, St. George News

After a Canyon View turnover, the Thunder’s Katelyn Philips found Bliss under the rim with a nifty dish, then Kylee Westhoff stole the ball and fed Mathis for the bucket that gave Desert Hills the lead at 20-19.

Canyon View called a time out, but back on the court Philips again fed Bliss for a score. The Falcons’ Cristal Elias hit a 15-foot jumper to stem the tide and pull her team to within 22-21.

But Mathis drained yet another shot from beyond the arc, triggering an 11-0 run that she then finished with her fourth 3-pointer of the quarter.

Canyon View’s Ashlyn Banks hit both ends of a one-and-one to close out the half as Desert Hills took a 33-23 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, the Falcons pulled to within 8 points on a couple of occasions, but the Thunder responded each time to maintain a comfortable lead.

The Thunder outscored the Falcons 25-9 in the second quarter. In the first, third and fourth quarters combined, Canyon View outscored Desert Hills 49-39.

Mathis would not score in the second half, but still led her team with 16 points on the game. Bliss added 11 while Philips, Jessica Bills and Madison Clark each scored 8.

The game’s high scorer was the Falcon’s Jordan Nielson, who drained six 3-pointers in the second half on her way to 19 points. Bryn Banks scored 13 and Ashlyn Banks 11. Canyon View had as many points (24) from 3-pointers as it did from 2-pointers, and hit 10 of 15 free throws.

The Thunder’s Madison Clark gets an open look on the baseline among Canyon View defenders, St. George, Utah, Feb. 15, 2018 | Photo by Michael Rinker, St. George News

Desert Hills finished the Region 9 season with a 7-5 record, tied for third place with Pine View. Cedar (10-2) finished first, while Hurricane (8-4) was runner-up.

Those four will match up with teams from Region 12, which is in the Logan area, in the first round of the 4A state championship tournament next week.

As the top two seeds in the Region 9, Cedar and Hurricane will host their first-round games, while Desert Hills – which earned the third seed because it defeated Pine View both times they played this season – and Pine View will travel north.

Cedar will play either Bear River or Sky View, while Hurricane will host Green Canyon. The Thunder play second-seeded Ridgeline and the Panthers play the top-seeded Logan Grizzlies.

All games will be played Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.

Final Region 9 standings
Cedar 10-2, 17-4
Hurricane 8-4, 13-9
Desert Hills 7-5, 7-13
Pine View 7-5, 12-6
Snow Canyon 5-7, 9-13
Dixie 3-9, 9-15
Canyon View 2-10, 5-17

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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