ST. GEORGE — Emery sure knows how to crash a good party, especially Camille Fehlberg. But don't expect her or her teammates to apologize.
After coming oh-so-close to winning the 3A basketball title a year ago, the No. 1 Spartans were more than happy to thwart the title aspirations of sentimental favorite Dixie, which took a losing record into Saturday's championship game.
Fehlberg poured in a game-high 27 points, including 18 in the first half as the Spartans toppled Dixie 51-40 to claim the school's first girls basketball state championship.
"I pulled her aside when we got off the bus, and said, 'It's up to you to win it and carry it on your shoulders,"' said Emery coach Steve Gordon. "She really stepped up and accepted the challenge. She was very determined to win."
Fehlberg was unstoppable, particularly in the first half, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. In addition to a pair of 3-pointers, a chunk of her points came from dribble penetration as Dixie failed to slow her down at the top of the key.
The senior point guard scored 14 points in last year's championship game loss to Canyon View in overtime, and on Saturday it was obvious she was going to do everything in her power to avoid a similar heartbreak.
"That's been my inspiration for my team all year," said Fehlberg. "Last year we made some mistakes, I made some mistakes that cost us the championship."
Those mistakes just weren't an issue against Dixie, which entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed out of Region 9 and pulled off three upsets to advance to the championship. Emery committed just 10 turnovers Saturday, a far cry from the 23 that nearly cost them in a quarterfinal win against Hurricane on Thursday.
In addition to Fehlberg's 27 points, sophomores ShiAnne Allred and Jodi Robertson chipped in with nine points each. Robertson wasn't sure if she'd even play after a concussion in the semifinals the day before sent her to the hospital. Doctors cleared her to play, and she contributed nicely to Emery's title run.
Despite the loss, the Flyers got the start they wanted, jumping out to an early 9-4 lead, ensuring the partisan Burns Arena crowd remained vocal, but turnovers soon became a problem. Emery closed the half on an 11-4 run, taking advantage of Dixie's 11 first-half turnovers and opening up a 26-19 lead.
In the second half, Dixie changed up the way it defended Fehlberg, sending two players her way whenever she tried sneaking into the lane.
"I thought they would double her a little earlier in the game, and I'm kind of glad they didn't because we struggled after they doubled her," said Gordon. "When she gets to the basket we're pretty good."
Despite the adjustment, Emery still extended its lead to 38-26 at the end of the third.
Dixie wasn't going away so easily. Nellie Hardy and Cherie Lyle, who led Dixie with 15 points, opened the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-pointers to whittle Emery's lead to 38-32. The Flyers eventually cut it to 44-39 on another 3-pointer by Hardy, but that was as close as they came.
"I told them, we've been here before, so quit being so wide-eyed," said Gordon. "You've got to give Dixie credit. They played their guts out."
Dixie had a pair of opportunities to trim it to a one-possession game, but it missed three straight free throws in the final minutes, contributing to a miserable 1-of-9 performance at the line. Emery, meanwhile, shot 68 percent from the line.
"I think Camille and some of the seniors they didn't want to settle for second again," said Gordon. "It feels good to finish second, but it's not the feeling you're after."
3A All-Tournament Team
MVP — Camille Fehlberg, Emery
Megan Garvin, Carbon
Lakell Havens, Dixie
Cherie Lyle, Dixie
Jodi Robertson, Emery
Shanae Vaifanua, Hurricane