ST. GEORGE — Cedar girls basketball capped off one of the most prolific three-year stretches in Class 4A with their second consecutive state title. After going 16-10 in the 2016-17 season, the Reds embarked on a three-year path that would see them go 67-7.
They lost to Salem Hills in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, but in 2018-19 the Reds went 25-0 and won the Class 4A state title. Cedar returned most of their team this season and the follow up did not disappoint.
The Reds scheduled an extremely tough preseason with two eventual Class 6A semifinalists, the defending Class 3A champions and a Bishop Gorman team that is a part of a highly regarded program. Despite that schedule, the Reds only lost twice and swept the entire Region 9 season.
If you take out two tests against Desert Hills, Cedar won every region game by double digits and most of them by 20 or more points. The Reds were dominant.
On their way to the state tournament, Cedar cruised to the semifinals with ease and then beat a tough Green Canyon team by seven points to advance into the finals. The win set up a rematch with a team they beat twice during the season, Pine View.
The night before the game, the Reds had a team meeting where head coach Corry Nielsen shared some thoughts.
“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,” 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 that 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.”
This sentiment was shared throughout his team. The jubilance was also met with emotions. The seniors on the roster had seen arguably the most successful and dominant seasons that Cedar high school has ever seen.
When asked about being a part of history, senior Mayci Torgerson said she definitely did feel that way.
“Our goal at the start of the year was three peat region, repeat state and then become a team that people will remember forever,” Torgerson said. “I think we did all of those.”
Heading into the championship game, the Reds were warming up and they stopped to film a TikTok video about 30 minutes before game time. It was at first alarming, but they gave off a feeling of relaxation without being too relaxed.
Nielsen at first was a little worried about it, but he then brought up an old saying that he told his team.
“Players play to the ability to which they are coached,” Nielsen said. “If we coach them right, and if they are prepared, why worry? If we’re prepared and we give effort, I can take the results.”
Even Torgerson spoke on that relaxation.
“We found that zone of still being prepared and not overlooking them but still being confident,” Torgerson said. “The two previous wins in the regular season helped us a lot, we knew we could beat them, we knew what they were going to do and we came out and executed.”
They did just that and cruised to a big win in the state title game.
Cedar had a big target on their back the entire season. In the preseason, teams pointed them out as a team that was miles ahead of the pack. Coaches would talk about fighting for second place instead of first because they knew that the Reds would be at the top.
This year everyone was out to get them.
“I think last year we could tell that the whole community was with us,” Weaver said of the state tournament. “We had the whole SUU gym filled and this year we could tell nobody wanted us to win, everyone was coming after us.”
What set them apart from other teams was their mentality every day. Nielsen brought this up when talking about his senior class.
“They came to practice every day to get better,” Nielsen said of his seniors. “They didn’t ever take any days off. Every day they came and worked hard, they had a specific goal in mind and that was to be here.”
Now that they have won the state title, the Reds are in a state of limbo. They will lose Torgerson, Weaver and Denim Henkel since they are seniors, but a big announcement came the night after the win. Junior Sam Johnston will be leaving Cedar high school early to play under her mom, head coach Tracy Sanders, at Southern Utah University.
The Reds will return Jaidi Willden and Logann Laws, but some big contributors from this three-year stretch will be leaving. There may be a lot of questions, but there is no question that the last three years for the Reds have been historic to say the least.
Cedar City reporter JEFF RICHARDS contributed to this report.
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