Girls basketball 4A playoffs: Cedar only Region 9 team to survive first round

Cedar's Samantha Johnston looks for an open teammate, Cedar vs. Salem Hills, 4A first-round playoff game, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 23, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Cedar was the only one of the four Region 9 playoff teams to win its opening round game of the 4A girls state basketball tournament Saturday.

Playing in what is in all likelihood the last home game on Cedar’s home court under the Redmen mascot, the top-seeded Lady Reds managed to stay unbeaten on the season by beating the Salem Hills Skyhawks, 53-31.

Salem Hills, the defending state 4A champions, managed to keep the game close during the first quarter, but Cedar pulled away in the second period to take a 24-13 halftime lead, despite making less than 30 percent of their shots.

“We were shooting 28 percent but still had an 11-point lead at the half, and I was okay with that,” Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said. “I just knew at some point we’re going to make some shots.”

Cedar outscored Salem Hills 15-5 during the third period to boost its lead to more than 20 points, eventually leading by almost 30 points midway through the fourth quarter, before Salem Hills hit a couple late 3-pointers. Cedar’s second-half field goal percentage was 48 percent.

As it has been all season long, Cedar’s defense proved to be the key, as the seemingly tireless Lady Reds applied unrelenting pressure throughout the game.

Cedar’s Japrix Weaver drives toward the basket, Cedar vs. Salem Hills, 4A first-round playoff game, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 23, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Junior forward Brooke Vance, who scored 9 points for Salem Hills in the first half, was held to 5 after halftime.

“To me, the big difference was our defense in the post the second half,” Nielsen said. “Number 24 (Vance) is a fantastic player. She’s probably one of the best post players in 4A. We kind of made an adjustment in the second half, and we went to a deny on her when she was outside in the perimeter.”

Besides Vance’s 14 points, no other Salem Hills player scored more than 4. The Skyhawks converted just 2-of-7 free throws as a team, while the Lady Reds were 11-of-12 from the line.

Nielsen said he was happy with his own team’s balanced scoring.

“Once again, our balance – 10 for Logann (Laws), 8 for Japrix (Weaver), 16 for Mayci (Torgerson) and 12 for Denim (Henkel). That’s who we are, and they really came on strong. Samantha (Johnston) only had 5 and I know she was disappointed in some of the shots that she missed, but they weren’t bad looks. They just didn’t go in.”

Cedar, now 22-0 overall this season, hasn’t lost a game since getting knocked out of the playoffs last year by Salem Hills. In the quarterfinals last March 1, Salem Hills beat Cedar 58-48, then went on to win the 4A championship two days later.

Cedar’s Logann Laws drives toward the basket, Cedar vs. Salem Hills, 4A first-round playoff game, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 23, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Earlier this season, Cedar defeated the Skyhawks, 64-25, at Salem Hills on Dec. 7.

“They’ve gotten a whole lot better since the last time we played,” Nielsen said of the Skyhawks.

With the win, Cedar advances to next week’s quarterfinals at Southern Utah University. Cedar will play Stansbury Thursday at 9:10 p.m., the last of eight scheduled 4A quarterfinal playoff games to be staged at the America First Event Center that day.

“I don’t care if the game’s at two in the morning, we’ll show up,” Nielsen said. “I don’t care where that game is, I don’t care when we play, we will be there.”

The Stansbury Stallions, Region 11’s No. 2 seed, defeated Logan 49-41 Saturday night. Earlier this season, Cedar defeated Stansbury 52-34 at Cedar on Dec. 29, during the Hodson Cancer Classic.

“That was two months ago,” Nielsen said. “I’m sure they’ve gotten a whole lot better, because they beat a very good Logan team tonight.”

After Saturday’s game ended, players, parents, band members, and cheerleaders and all sorts of fans gathered on the court for one last group picture under the “Redmen” name on the wall.

“We probably played the last basketball game as Cedar Redmen, and that means something,” Nielsen said. “If we’re going to be the last team ever to play as Cedar Redmen, what a way to go out. It couldn’t be more beautiful. We had a fantastic crowd and the students, the band and the community have supported us so much this year.”

Meanwhile, in other first-round playoff action involving Region 9 teams:

Uintah 58, Desert Hills 50

At Desert Hills, the No. 2 seeded Lady Thunder fell to the third-seeded Uintah Utes Saturday afternoon, 58-50.

Uintah jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the contest. Desert Hills recovered well enough to take a 15-13 lead after one quarter and stay up by one at halftime, 27-26.

Katelyn Philips of Desert Hills shoots against Uintah, St. George, Utah, Feb. 23, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Desert Hills Athletics via Twitter, St. George News

However, in the second half, Uintah slowly began to pull away.

Senior guard Kassidy Callahan scored all 10 of her points during the fourth period by shooting 10-for-10 from the free throw line, as the Utes outscored the Thunder 19-14 in the final quarter. Callahan’s twin sister Kaitlyn led the Utes with 16 points.

Desert Hills was led by Kellie Nance’s 11 points, while fellow senior Rachel Myers added 9.

“This was a tough loss. We just struggled the whole game,” Desert Hills head coach Ron Denos said. “We got ahead but could never get a flow. In the fourth, we became stagnant on offense and they hit a couple of big shots and we could never get back. We just didn’t have it today.”

Denos praised the efforts and leadership of the seniors on his squad, including Nance, Myers, Samantha Crane, Abby Monson and Katelyn Philips.

“They were picked to take sixth in region this year but ended up second,” Denos added. “I had some great seniors that I’m really going to miss. They never would give up and played hard all the time. We had no drama within our team and it was because of the leadership of these seniors.”

The Lady Thunder’s overall record ended up at 13-8.

Spanish Fork 64, Dixie 63 (OT)

At Spanish Fork, the Dixie Flyers nearly pulled off a first-round upset, taking the Lady Dons into overtime before losing by one point, 64-63.

Midway through the second quarter, Dixie fell behind 30-23, but the Flyers went on an 8-0 run to regain the lead. Spanish Fork led by one basket at halftime, 34-32.

Dixie outscored Spanish Fork 17-9 during the third period to take a six-point lead heading into the final quarter, 49-43.

Spanish Fork rallied to regain the lead 52-51 midway through the fourth, at which point both teams battled evenly for the remaining four minutes of regulation.

With the score tied at 56-56 with just under a minute left, Spanish Fork’s Haley Cardoza was fouled by Dixie’s Sina Tapasa, who picked up her fifth personal foul on the play and thereby had to leave the game.

Cardoza made both free throws to put the Dons up by two. Dixie missed its next shot, but got the ball back and Enid Vaifanua hit a baseline shot to tie the game with 16 seconds left.

Dixie stole the ball back, but the Flyers were unable to get another shot off before the buzzer sounded to end regulation.

Spanish Fork’s Erica Allan hit a 3-pointer to start the four-minute overtime, then added a pair of free throws to give the Dons a 5-point lead.

Dixie narrowed the gap to one point, thanks to a 3-pointer by Mel Alo with one minute remaining that made it 64-63 in favor of Spanish Fork.

Neither team was able to score the rest of the way, however, as Spanish Fork missed a couple of late free throws, but Dixie was not able to capitalize, missing a potentially game-winning shot with about 5 seconds to go.

“Spanish Fork is tall and long, and they did a good job taking away the shots we wanted in the second half,” said Dixie head coach Ryan Forsey, whose team finished its season with an overall record of 13-10. “We still took good shots, not great shots, but a different bounce here or there, and who knows?”

Tapasa led the Lady Flyers with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Sina Schwalger added 13 points. The Lady Dons were led by Cardoza and Allan, who scored 17 apiece.

Lehi 49, Pine View 44

At Lehi, Pine View played the Region 10 champions closely for much of their opening-round playoff game before losing to the Pioneers by five points, 49-44.

Lehi jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the first quarter, but Pine View outscored the Pioneers 17-11 during the second period and trailed by just four points at halftime, 25-21.

Throughout the second half, however, Lehi managed to stay a couple baskets ahead most of the time and eventually eked out the victory.

Pine View’s Sophie Jensen led the Lady Panthers in scoring with 18 points, including two 3-pointers, but no other Panther player scored more than 6.

The Lady Panthers finished their season with an overall record of 8-13.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!