RICHFIELD — The heartbreak is a year old, but it’s still teaching the Delta Rabbits valuable lessons.
“We got upset last year in our playoff game,” said Delta head coach Kurtis Topham after Delta used a dominating second-half performance to beat top-ranked North Summit 55-34 in the 2A quarterfinals Thursday night. “Ever since then, (the players) have kind of been on a mission to go prove they can beat anybody.”
His players revisited the disappointment of that first-round playoff upset two weeks ago when the fifth-ranked team lost two region games in a row. It reminded them to take nothing for granted and to play until the final buzzer sounds.
“We talk about finishing all the time,” Topham said. “We had a stretch there where we had a hard time this season, a week where we didn’t finish games very well. We just talked, ‘You gotta go out and finish.’ ”
His players took that halftime message to heart as they outscored the Braves 20-2 in the third quarter and 30-9 in the second half.
“They handled the pressure really well,” Topham said of the intensity that accompanies playoff basketball. “I’ve never seen us finish a game like that before, but we’ll take it.”
There really wasn’t an aspect of the game the Rabbits didn’t dominate in the second half. In the first half, the two teams traded baskets and had similar rebounding stats and field goal percentages. In fact, each team made four 3-point shots and had a similar number of turnovers.
One stat was particularly significant in the second half as the Rabbits out-rebounded the Braves 36-24. They also had more steals and more assists, along with being 14-of-21 from the line while the Braves were just 4-of-10.
With the game tied at 25-25 at halftime, Topham said they contemplated making some changes.
“We talked about it — go play to win,” Topham said. “We just thought, ‘We’re going to come out and play our game. We debated about going to some halfcourt stuff; but (we decided) we’re going to go out, and win or lose, we’re going to play how we play. That was what we decided, and our girls played their hearts out tonight.”
Their strategy worked as the Rabbits ran away with the game.
“We felt like we were deep enough that we could get up and down (the court). That’s a good team. … But the one thing we have is some depth, and we thought we could get after them, just sub and stay as fresh as I could.”
It seemed to work well as the Rabbits moved the ball efficiently and effectively while their defense almost completely stymied the Braves' offense.
North Summit was led by Haylee McQueen, who finished with 14 points, but only three of those came in the second half. Hunter Vernon added 13 points and eight rebounds, with three points and four rebounds coming in the game’s second half.
For Delta, it was Sidney Springer who led the way with 17 points and six rebounds, while Harlee Willoughby added six points and nine rebounds. Brooke Henrie finished with seven rebounds, four assists and three points.
Henrie said the second-half roll came from the team’s natural chemistry.
“I think we just kind of started to click like we always have,” Henrie said. “It kind of went our way for a bit. We just decided it was our half, the last half, and to win that half and play better.”
Topham said they knew rebounding would be a key to winning against such a great shooting team.
“We thought if we could rebound and hold them to one shot attempt, we’d have a chance,” he said. “That’s a good team — fast, athletic, good shooters.”
Topham said he wasn’t worried about whether his team would face Manti or Millard in Friday’s semifinal. They’d simply show up and continue trying to prove they’re a better team than they showed last year or two weeks ago.
“Tonight we were able to make some shots, get some layups,” Topham said. “We still have a long ways to go. We haven’t won anything yet. But that was the thing. We feel like we can step on the court and play with people.”
IN OTHER 2A TOURNAMENT GAMES:
KANAB 43, SOUTH SUMMIT 39: Kaitlyn Glover led the third-ranked Cowboys to a quarterfinal win with 13 points and five rebounds. Kaitlyn "KC" Houston and Shaylee McDonald added eight points each. The Wildcats were led by Josie Grajek, who scored 16 points and earned four rebounds.
NORTH SEVIER 46, SUMMIT ACADEMY 29: The Wolves were led by Peyton Torgerson, who scored 15 points and grabbed 17 boards. Hailey Higgs added 11 points, while Meisha Johnson scored 12 points in the victory. The win means North Sevier will play Kanab in the 2A semifinals on Friday at 12:50 p.m.
The Bears were led by Marissa Hathaway, who scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds. Kendell Mapston added seven points and five steals.
MANTI 64, MILLARD 57: Amanda Naylor hit 8-of-10 freethrows in the game's final minutes to ice the quartefinal win for the Templars. Mikaela Cox added 18 points and three rebounds. She finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and three steals. The win means Manti will play Delta in the 2A semifinals on Friday.
The Eagles were led by Anna Camp, who finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds, while Shantel Kesler added 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals. Kenlie Lemon added five points and six steals in the loss.
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