ST. GEORGE — The Cedar Reds cruised past Pine View on their way to a second-straight Class 4A state title on Saturday. Despite a slow first quarter, an offensive outburst in the second quarter gave them room to breathe and they ran with it.
After taking a big, 20-point lead they never looked back, winning 61-44.
“I told the girls this all year, today will be the happiest day of my life and it’ll also be the saddest day of my life,” Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said. “On one side, I’m ecstatic. For these two years, how many teams go 49-2 in two years? I’m excited about that but these girls are so important to me and I’d do anything for them. I’ve been going back and forth, happy one minute and depressed the other, and that’s not going to change.”
To start the game, the Panthers did a great job slowing the pace of the game, holding Cedar to just eight points. The Reds had a two-point lead going into the second quarter and that is when the Reds offense woke up.
Cedar outscored Pine View 25-13 in the second quarter and had all the momentum going into halftime up 33-19.
Every time Pine View got a big basket, the Reds answered. Mayci Torgerson knocked down two deep threes and stepped up when Japrix Weaver and Sam Johnston struggled, then Weaver found her shot and drained a three to end the first half that sparked their team going into the locker room and second half.
While the Panthers held Sam Johnston to only 1-of-6 from the field with four points, the story of the season has been the balance of the Reds. When some of their players were struggling, the others stepped up.
“It’s shown through all three games, it’s been different,” Johnston said. “We’ve had three scorers in double-digits almost every game.”
The second half opened with a quick turnover for Pine View and Denim Henkel got a breakaway layup to get a 16-point lead. Everything was going Cedar’s way, just as it had all season.
The Reds were locked in on another level after they regrouped from a slow start. They got out in transition and punished the Panthers with their high pressure defense and their points off turnovers.
The Reds held the Panthers to 14-49 from the field, which came out to be 28.6%. Pine View struggled to get the ball in the basket all game, especially in the second half.
Pine View would cut the lead a little bit and Cedar would come right back and squash any hope the Panthers had at a possible comeback.
For the Reds, Torgerson led the way with 14 points while Weaver had 11 points and eight rebounds. Sophie Jensen and Ellie Wilson had 12 points apiece for Pine View. Averi Papa added nine points and nine rebounds.
Every Region 9 coach we’ve talked to said it is hard to beat a team three times, but Cedar had a different challenge. They were playing a Pine View team that was on a hot streak coming into the title game.
“Didn’t even think about that because to me, the Pine View team that came to play today had beat a two seed and a three seed,” Nielsen said of the Reds beating Pine View twice. “We totally erased everything else. I told the girls, ‘this is not the same team that you played before.’ They have gotten so much better and they are a good team.”
At the end of the day, the Reds were the more experienced team and it showed. Once they put their foot on the gas, they did not let up as they cruised their way to a second-straight state title.
For Pine View, they had a miraculous run. First-year head coach Ben Luce proved himself after moving from Class 2A to Class 4A and the Panthers showed what they were capable of. A team that was counted out throughout the entire playoffs proved the doubters wrong.
“I just know it was a team that improved a lot during the year and they had a good run in the tournament,” Luce said. “A little disappointed in second place but Cedar has had our number all year. You’ve got to tip your cap to them. I hope these girls still understand how much they accomplished this year and second is nothing to shake your head at.”
Wilson, a senior, stepped up to the table and had a massive weekend in Ogden. Junior Alyson Schmitt did the same and they both helped push Pine View to the championship game. Let’s not forget Papa, who gave the Panthers a double-double effort in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
This Panthers team was clicking on all cylinders.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Luce said. “We were fortunate enough to have some good players step up to get us here. That’s what a state tournament is about, the ups and downs of the games and that whole experience.”
They beat the No. 2 and No. 3 team on their way to a rematch with Cedar in the title game that ultimately did not go the way they had hoped.
Now that the season is over, Nielsen expressed sadness about the journey for her team coming to an end.
“Now what? I just seem like I’m kind of lost,” Nielsen said. “I don’t have any game to prepare for, no film to watch, no scouting reports to fill, this is a difficult time for me right now. You spend so much time preparing and then it’s over so quickly but the reward outweighs any challenging times.”
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