Cedar advances to 4A championship game with win over Lehi

Cedar's Japrix Weaver looks for an opening as she dribbles around the Lehi defense, Cedar City, Utah, March 1, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar Lady Reds earned their ticket to the 4A state basketball championship game by defeating the Lehi Pioneers 53-43 in the semifinals Friday afternoon.

Cedar has now won 24 straight games this season, with zero losses and one more game left to play. The Lady Reds will face Ridgeline High for the state title 5 p.m. Saturday at Southern Utah University’s America First Event Center.

Cedar got off to a strong start against Lehi, just as it had against Stansbury the night before.

Samantha Johnston swished a 3-pointer on Cedar’s first possession and teammate Denim Henkel drained a 15-foot jumper the next time down the floor, putting Cedar up 5-0.

When Japrix Weaver made two free throws with 2:35 left in the first period, Cedar’s lead had grown to 16-2.

However, Lehi then went on a 16-4 run to pull within two points, 20-18, with just under five minutes left in the second quarter.

Cedar didn’t lose its composure nor its lead, however, as the Lady Reds made a couple baskets to make it 24-18 at the midway point of the second period.

Lehi vs. Cedar, Cedar City, Utah, March 1, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News

Both teams appeared to run a bit ragged the latter half of the second quarter, but Cedar managed to take a 28-23 advantage into the halftime break.

Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said he was pleased with his team’s strong start.

“We had some open shots, and they went in,” he said. “We did a good job sharing the ball, passing it to the open player. I thought were really good in the first quarter.”

As for the second quarter, Nielsen said he expected Lehi to stage a comeback.

“You know, they’re very good team. At some point every good team will make a run,” he said. “I thought offensively we did some things that weren’t too good. I thought we didn’t pass the ball as well as we had been. Plus they’re a good team. And so I think it was a combination of us not doing what we’re supposed to do and them making shots.”

“I’ve always said we have a blueprint on how we’re supposed to play and in the second quarter we did not do that,” Nielsen added as he went on to explain what he told his team at halftime.

“I said, hey, that team that I saw out there playing was not the team that has been playing our first 23 games. I said we need to get back on sharing the ball, running in transition and getting open shots for everybody. And I thought in the third quarter we came out and did that.”

Lehi vs. Cedar, Cedar City, Utah, March 1, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News

Cedar outscored Lehi 12-7 during the third period to take a 40-30 lead into the final quarter. The Lady Reds made just two field goals during the final stanza but converted 8-of-10 free throws to help keep the game out of reach.

Johnston and Mayci Torgerson each scored 13 points to lead Cedar’s balanced scoring attack, while Logann Laws added 12 and Weaver made 10. Cedar converted 17-of-23 free throws during the game, while Lehi made just 10-of-19.

Lehi was paced by guard Maci Warren, who scored 13 points, while Apelila Galeai added 11.

Nielsen said he’s looking forward to the challenge of playing Ridgeline for the championship Saturday evening. The RiverHawks defeated Uintah in the other semifinal game, 56-40.

“I know they’re a fantastic team,” Nielsen said of Ridgeline. “They have good outside shooters. They’ve got good inside players and they’ve got a wing player who’s very aggressive on the wing. So they’ll be a challenge for us, but we’re excited for that challenge.”

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

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