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High school girls basketball: Delta uses focused effort in decisive semifinal victory over Manti

RICHFIELD — Losing is the most painful way to be reminded just how much focus it takes to accomplish something great.

But if that’s what it takes for the Delta Rabbits, they’re glad to have suffered two region losses in early February that resulted in a second-place finish in Region 13.

“Just a lack of concentration,” said Sidney Springer after the fifth-ranked Rabbits defeated Manti 54-29 in the 2A semifinals at the Sevier Valley Center Friday. “(We) just couldn’t finish it.”

Their decisive victory Friday allows them a shot at avenging one of those losses, as well as a chance to earn the school’s first girls basketball title since 1987. Delta will take on Region 13 champion Kanab in Saturday’s 2A championship at 5 p.m.

“Maybe the pressure got to us,” head coach Kurtis Topham said. “We hadn’t lost in a long time. We lost that one, and then we lost the next one. It’s hard to maintain that intensity all the time. … But we were able to refocus (after the losses).”

That focus has helped them to an impressive postseason run that included Friday’s victory against Manti. Delta played 12 players in the win with Harlee Willoughby leading the way offensively. She finished with 15 points, four rebounds, five steals and three assists.

Springer added eight points, five rebounds and five steals, while Ciara Edwards also had eight points, four steals and four rebounds.

Springer said the team is fueled by last year’s first-round exit and this year’s two-game losing streak.

“It’s all the motivation we have,” she said. “It really humbled us, brought us closer as a team, and we’re just ready to go play them again — and beat them.”

Topham said they felt fortunate to get past Manti the way they did.

“We feel lucky,” Topham said. “Manti is a good team, they’ve got a good coach.”

He said Manti’s height caused them some issues, especially when the Templars switched from zone defense to man-to-man.

“They came out in zone and we knocked some shots down,” he said. “They came out of the zone and we got a little passive there for a bit, and maybe (we) shot too many threes. We came out in the second half and attacked the basket better.” He said the Rabbit offense stalled a little in the second quarter more from mental lapses.

“I think part of it was because of their length, and they went man, and I think we were worried about getting our shots blocked or fouled. So rather than trying to just shoot and finish like we should, like we normally do, we shot too much from the outside.”

Topham said his team was looking forward to a rematch with Kanab as both teams prefer a fast-paced game.

“Now we just have to hope we still got some gas in the tank,” he said smiling. “That (Shaylee) McDonald girl, in my opinion, is probably one of the best girls in the state, if not 2A. She doesn’t seem to get tired, stays out of foul trouble and she’s a handful. When you have to focus on her, then the Glover girl and the Houston girl, they’re seniors. The (Katie) Glover girl is coming back from an injury and she’s out to get a little redemption for herself.”

The 2A championship game begins at 5 p.m. at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

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