ST. GEORGE — Junior point guard Sa’de Turlington of Desert Hills High School has been selected as the girls basketball player of the week for week six of the Region 9 season.
Turlington isn’t often selected to lead the high-scoring Thunder in points. That job is often delegated to Shailee Bundy in the post or Enid Vaifanua from the outside. But neither of those two could put up the numbers they do without Turlington. And, when those options are guarded, Turlington is more than capable of finding the basket herself. On Feb. 9, against Desert Hills’ biggest Region 9 competition, she did just that to help the Thunder come back in emphatic fashion. She then did her normal thing on Feb. 11, quarterbacking the Thunder to a big win over Hurricane.
Turlington is one of the top dribblers in Region 9 and makes opportunities not only for herself but for her teammates. She’s a rock on defense. She’s an essential piece for a Thunder team on both sides of the court.
“She’s the glue that holds us together a little bit,” Desert Hills head coach Ron Denos said. “We ask a lot from her. I tell her at times, ‘You know what, you might have to give up part of your game for this. There might be nights where you’re the one we’re going with.’ She’s one of the ones that will give up her game.”
On Feb. 9, Turlington played a pivotal role in the Thunder’s second victory of the season over Pine View, which entered the season as the favorites to take the Region 9 title. The teams’ first contest at Desert Hills on Jan. 14 went to overtime before the Thunder pulled off the narrow three-point victory. Following Turlington’s lead, the Thunder left no doubt by the final buzzer, turning a seven-point trail at halftime into a 18-point lead in the final 16 minutes of the game.
Turlington scored a game-leading 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half and nine in the third quarter, when Desert Hills scored 28 total to jump to a 48-40 lead. Per MaxPreps data, the 19 points is a career-high for the junior in a game that cemented Desert Hills as a cut above the rest of the region. Pine View head coach Ben Luce said the Thunder “proved they’re the best team in St. George.” For Turlington and the rest of the team, the win was monumental.
“It was huge,” Turlington said. “It was super important. It was cool hearing it from the coach that we’re the best team in the region. It just means a lot, because they’re a great team.”
Turlington also added five assists, two rebounds and two steals in the game.
She said Pine View’s zone defense made it easy for her to advance through the gaps and find open shots.
“I usually feel comfortable assisting people more, but they played zone on us. I like to attack the gaps,” she said.
In the 64-40 win at Hurricane on Feb. 11, Turlington turned the scoring down a bit to 11 points. She recorded two boards, three assists and two steals. Seven of her points came in the first quarter to establish a 16-6 lead that carried the Thunder through to the end against a tough, aggressive Tigers defense.
The wins gave Desert Hills a 12-0 record entering the final week of the regular season and left not much doubt about which team would take home the region title. The big win over Pine View meant the Panthers could at best force a tie if the Thunder lost out the last two games. With Turlington’s ball movement and speed opening gaps either for herself or to lay a pass to Bundy down low or Vaifanua, the top 3-point shooter in the region, the Thunder have a dynamic offense that only two teams have solved so far, way back in the preseason in December.
That force gets a little less strong without Turlington in it.
“We have a really tight bound. I think that helps us the most,” Turlington said.
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