OREM – With last week’s big road upset, Desert Hills was poised to be the Cinderella of the 4A girls state tournament. As it turns out, Lehi had an even bigger glass slipper.
The fourth-seeded Lady Pioneers knocked off the third-seeded Lady Thunder 45-41 Thursday in the 4A quarterfinals in a game that came down to the closing seconds. The win advances the 14-10 Pioneers to the semifinals to face Hurricane in the 4:10 p.m. game at the UCCU Center in Orem.
“We are speechless,” said Lehi head coach Aubrey Van Pelt. “These guys have worked so hard all season long. They have been underdogs all season long. I’m not surprised because I know their intensity and their enthusiasm and their drive, but it was so cool to see them work so hard and achieve something.”
Sara Christopherson had three key baskets in the final four minutes of the game, including the go-ahead bucket with 3:59 on the clock, to send the Pioneers into the semifinals.
“It was a great game and both teams were hitting big shot after big shot,” Desert Hills head coach Ron Denos said. “But at the end, they hit big shots and we didn’t, so congratulations to them.”
Early in the game, it looked like the Thunder would have no problem with Lehi. Jessica Mathis and Katelyn Philips led D-Hills to an impressive 11-5 advantage in the first quarter. When Mathis hit a contested layup to start the second quarter, it was a game-best 13-5 advantage for the Thunder.
But the Pioneers fired up their engines and began their comeback almost immediately. Samantha Lewis hit a trey and Macie Warren scored for five quick points to make it 13-10. Late in the first half, with Desert Hills up 17-14, Alli Butterfield hit a deep trey for her only points of the game. The long bomb tied the game and came with two seconds on the clock.
“That three, and that kid, Ali Butterfield, is our sixth man and she is an energy bundle,” Van Pelt said. “She has filled that role for us all season long. There is not one other person on this team that I would have liked seen hit that 3. She’s got guts, she’s got energy and enthusiasm and she works so hard. They were screaming and hollering after that shot going into the locker room.”
The contest stayed close the rest of the way. Desert Hills led 37-36 after a basket by Kamryn Bliss with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Christopherson got hot. Her fast-break layup put Lehi ahead 38-37 with 3:59 to go and Apelila Galeai followed with a steal and a basket to make it 40-37.
Desert Hills got two free throws from Bliss to cut it to 40-39 with 3:08 on the clock. Christopherson broke free again and made it 42-39 18 seconds later. Again the Thunder countered with Madison Clark scoring in the paint to make it 42-41 with 2:40 left in the game.
The two teams traded misses before Galeai was fouled in the back court and made one of two free throws to make it 43-41 with 1:02 left on the clock. After a Hurricane miss, the Pioneers worked the clock under minute and called a timeout. Lehi then ran a set play for Christopherson in which she caught a lob pass in the paint and scored the clinching basket with 13.4 seconds left in the game.
“That was the called play but we weren’t sure how well it would work,” Van Pelt said. “We tried it a few times against Bonneville and it went horrible, but I didn’t know it would work that well.”
Desert Hills couldn’t get a decent shot off at the end and the Pioneers came away with the quarterfinal win.
“As a team, we started out slow and then they started playing like I knew they were capable of,” Denos said of his team’s season. “I am proud of them battling back the way after the way we started and they did an outstanding year. They were a fun group to coach.”
Desert Hills was led by Philips, who had 11 points and three steals. Clark added eight points. Jess Bills led the Thunder with seven rebounds. D-Hills ends the year with a 8-14 record.
Galeai led Lehi with 12 points. Christopherson had six and six boards.
4A first round results
Spanish Fork 72, Stansbury 53
Logan 57, Pine View 49
Cedar 56, Bear River 34
Salem Hills 62, Tooele 25
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)
Spanish Fork (14-7) vs. Logan (18-4), 9:10 p.m.
Cedar (18-4) vs. Salem Hills (21-1), 7:30 p.m.
Hurricane 53, Mt. View 44
Lehi 45, Desert Hills 41
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