ST. GEORGE — The first time the Desert Hills and Pine View girls basketball teams met ended up being a double overtime thriller at Pine View with the Thunder coming out victorious.
The two teams matched up for the second time on Friday and the game was just as close as the first, but the Thunder still got the victory 54-52 behind a 29-point night from Kami Bliss that included six made threes.
“It was a little bit tense,” Thunder head coach Ron Denos said. “They’re a very good team and they have improved. You play someone twice, I don’t want to have to play them three times. They got Sophie [Jensen] back which helped them a little bit, we lost Maggie and that hurt us a little bit. It kind of put girls out of position, in positions that they’re not used to running so we had a hard time running some stuff but I’m proud of the girls that came in and stepped up.”
After a tough loss in their first matchup, the rematch was definitely a hard one to swallow for the Panthers.
“You want to beat them but that’s not revolving around our season,” Panthers head coach Ben Luce said. “They’re a dang good team, they beat us the first time and we owed them one, and we played a lot better this game. When you pay hard and you lose it’s going to hurt but it’s not the end of the world.”
The first quarter went back and forth with the Thunder leading 11-10 over Pine View. In the second quarter, the Thunder extended their lead to six going into the half.
Pine View came out of the locker room with some energy and took a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Sophie Jensen made her return to the court after missing a month with a concussion and she played a big role in the Panthers’ success in the third quarter.
“It took her a while to get warmed up but just knowing that we’ve got that extra depth in rotation, a ball handler and senior leadership it does a lot of good,” Luce said of Jensen.
The Panthers at times looked really good against the Desert Hills zone defense, then other times the Thunder were able to get easy turnovers that they converted into layups.
“We make adjustments each game according to the personnel that’s on the floor,” Denos said of their zone. “We have definite things that we’re keying on but our girls run it so well that they adjust really well. It’s just them trusting each other and communicating. They’re picking up things, they’re reading the game and it’s a lot on them.”
Desert Hills grew their lead to five with about two minutes left but Pine View kept pushing. They were down three with 1:19 left in the game and then got the ball back after a missed free throw down 2.
The Panthers were unable to get a good look at the basket and the game was over.
Desert Hills pulls out another close one, 54-52. Here’s the final play. pic.twitter.com/5Jj14bm6nk
— St. George News Sports (@STGnewsSports) January 25, 2020
Kami Bliss finished the game with 29 points and played a big part in the victory for the Thunder.
“When she gets rolling you just let her have it,” Denos said. “She really didn’t want to lose this game and you could see it. You see it on the defense end and you see it on offense. She just has a little pep to her step. When she’s like that, she’s a great player and tonight she was. We needed her.”
At times, the Panthers would lose track of Bliss or they would lay off her. But to her credit, she was hitting some deep threes.
“I was like, ‘if they’re going to leave me open i’m going to shoot,'” Bliss said. “I love to shoot threes but I feel like we really played as a team that game. Last game, we’d just take the open shot and this time we worked the ball around, it just felt right with the shots I took.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Thunder as they play Hurricane and Cedar next week at home. The last time the Thunder played Hurricane, it was a low-scoring game that they ended up winning by only six. That game will not be a cake walk but the big matchup will be on Friday against Cedar.
“This is just the start, this means nothing,” Bliss said of the win. “We’re on to the next game. This [game against Cedar] will determine because right now we’re first in state. This is the game we’ve been working for all year so it’ll be fun, I’m excited.”
Pine View plays Crimson Cliffs at home on Wednesday and then Snow Canyon on the road to end the week on Friday.
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