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High school girls basketball: Kanab senior making up for lost season as team earns a spot in the 2A title game

RICHFIELD — Katie Glover sat on the bench every minute of her junior season watching other girls play the sport she loved for the high school she yearned to represent.

“It made me cry, almost every time,” Glover said after her dominating performance in the paint helped third-ranked Kanab beat North Sevier 56-51 in the 2A semifinals Friday at the Sevier Valley Center. “It was terrible.”

The forward tore her ACL during the 2013 volleyball season, which sidelined her for her favorite sport — basketball — last year. She said she made the four-hour round-trip drive to St. George four times a week for rehab with one thing on her mind — her senior season.

“Every day,” she said of how often she imagined what this season would be like. “That was the goal, to get back and to have the best senior year.”

Glover and her teammates are making the most of her comeback as they have played some of the tournament’s toughest, tightest contests. Friday’s semifinal victory over North Sevier was no exception as the Cowboys fell behind in the first quarter and had to make a defensive switch to claw their way back into the game.

“Our whole game plan today (was to go inside to Glover),” said Kanab head coach Mickey Houston. “It didn’t start out that way. We started in man-to-man; we wanted to shock them early, but it backfired, and they got a lead on us.”

Kodi Curtis led the Wolves’ offensively with 10 points and two 3-pointers in the first quarter. In the second quarter, KC Houston and Shaylee McDonald combined for three 3-pointers, while Glover had some key rebounds and a timely steal that led to Houston’s trey.

At the buzzer signaling the game’s halfway point, McDonald hit her second to give Kanab a 29-28 lead headed into the locker room.

“I knew we could handle the pressure,” said Glover, who had a monster game with 20 points, 18 rebounds and five steals. “We’ve been in that position a lot this season. We can handle it. … As long as our defense was strong, our offense will come.”

In fact, with three minutes left in the game, coach Houston turned to his assistant and told him he wasn’t comfortable with the team’s 50-45 lead.

“We’re better playing from behind when we’re in attack mode,” he said smiling. “But the best basketball is to be ahead at the end.”

The Wolves played well, led by Hailey Higgs' 18 points and Kodi Curtis’ 11 points. Peyton Torgerson was tough to contain, scoring 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. She became a focus of Kanab’s second-half defensive efforts. The Cowboys and Wolves traded baskets — and leads — in the third quarter. It was a fast-paced, well-executed game that featured impressive long-range shooting and physical play in the paint.

And while McDonald led the Cowboys' outside game with 22 points, Glover muscled her way into every mele under the basket and won most of them. Coach Houston was emotional talking about how well she’s played this season.

“Katie, for what she’s gone through, I’m just so happy for her,” he said. “I had to sit on the bench with her last year, and it sucked. I felt bad because she really wanted to be there.”

The Cowboys had a frightening moment at the end of the game when McDonald was knocked to the ground and had to leave the game with help walking to the bench from her teammates.

“I feel great,” she said afterward. “I don’t really remember when I got hit, but I just know somebody hit me. And I fell. When I got the ball, everything was blurry, and I couldn’t really see where I was going.”

One of the officials saw her wobbling and called a timeout to check with her. As she made her way to the sideline, coach Houston said she asked for time to collect herself.

“She said, ‘Just give me a minute,’ ” he said, of the timeout that came with 23 seconds left in the game and a 54-51 lead for the Cowboys. “So I called a timeout and bought a little bit more time. … When she got her bell rung, I was just trying to buy time. I know she’s a strong girl and strong-willed, but I knew it hurt.” He had to use his last timeout a few seconds later when the Wolves trapped the ball just after it was thrown inbounds. He said McDonald didn’t say anything to him, she just walked up to the scorers table and checked herself into the game with 17 seconds left on the clock.

“Shay came back in and did what she does,” he said.

McDonald not only dribbled the length of the court, through the athletic North Sevier defenders where she was fouled with 9.7 seconds left in the game. She made both to secure the win for the Wolves.

McDonald, who has also been struggling with severe back pain, said a trainer gave her the go-ahead to return to the game.

“I knew my team needed me to finish the game,” she said. “I knew they needed the extra help, and I wasn’t going to let them down.”

She said the Cowboys became more effective by simply playing with more intensity.

“I just had to give it my all,” McDonald said. “I knew we were going to give it our all, and we did. We just started attacking the basket more and playing like we wanted to win a lot more than we were at first.”

The Cowboys won their first region title in 30 years with just one region loss. That loss came in Delta on the home court of the Rabbits, the team they will face for the title Saturday at 5 p.m. Delta beat Manti 54-29 in the other 2A semifinal Friday.

Twitter: adonsports; EMAIL: adonaldson@deseretnews.com