RICHFIELD — There were plenty of reasons for Beaver to feel good about the way the first half of its quarterfinal game against Grand in the 2A girls basketball tournament unfolded.
The Beavers had allowed the Red Devils to barely reach 10 points by halftime. They had also limited Grand to just a single field goal in the second quarter after yielding four baskets during the first eight minutes.
Indeed, even with a half still to play, Beaver had the Red Devils exactly where it wanted them because its defense was firmly in control. And it stayed in control through the remaining two quarters in a 41-28 victory at the Sevier Valley Center on Thursday night.
"Defense has been one of our biggest keys this year," senior forward Bonnie Yardley said. "On offense, some games we never know what it's going to be like. But we can always count on our team to have good defense."
Initially, Grand looked ready to play the role of spoiler for a second straight season. The Red Devils pulled off a big first-round upset over North Summit a year ago and seemed to be in a good position to make the Beavers sweat it out as well.
After spotting Beaver a 9-2 lead, Grand whittled it away as the first quarter wound down. Back-to-back baskets from Shelby Dalton cut the margin to 9-8 with 2:33 left in the quarter.
After the Beavers built back up a 15-10 lead by halftime, Grand made another effort to overtake Beaver in the third quarter. The Red Devils cut it to one again on basket from Dalton that made it 17-16 with 4:03 left in the quarter.
That ended up being as close to an upset as they could get.
Brittney Blackner hit a pair of 3-pointers to push the lead back to 24-19 with 2:30 to go in the third. It marked the beginning of a larger 13-4 run that ended with Tiffany Gillins putback layup and a 30-20 lead for Beaver two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Grand could not draw closer than eight after that final run by the Beavers, in part because Beaver found a way to answer the Red Devils shot for shot in final quarter.
"When we went in for halftime, we really decided we really had to (elevate) our defense and we had to step up on making our shots," Yardley said. "The first half, it was kind of iffy. But the second half, our girls really stepped up and played their offense and defense even stronger."