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1A girls basketball tournament: Rich relies on defense, senior leadership in upset win over Wayne

SHARE 1A girls basketball tournament: Rich relies on defense, senior leadership in upset win over Wayne
I get nervous in every game. Every game is a tight game. As a head coach, this is my first time heading to the semis, so I’m super excited for our program. – Rich head coach Cody Lundgren

RICHFIELD — Cody Lundgren didn’t have to see a single play to know his players came to their 1A quarterfinal game prepared to pull off an upset.

“Their look when they started the game today, it was stone cold,” said Rich head coach Cody Lundgren after the unranked Rebels upset No. 5 ranked Wayne 56-48 in the 1A state basketball tournament Thursday night at the Sevier Valley Center. “They were focused. They came ready to play.” That’s not to say the fast-paced, competitive game didn’t test his faith.

“I get nervous in every game,” he said. Every game is a tight game. As a head coach, this is my first time heading to the semis, so I’m super excited for our program.”

Wayne got off to a strong start, and the Badgers led the Rebels 14-8 at the end of the first quarter. With about three minutes left in the second quarter, the Rebel defense started to find some cracks in the Badgers’ game. A series of great defense plays allowed the Rebels to head to the locker room at halftime with a 27-27 game.

Lundgren said the team’s preparation is the same, regardless of who they face.

“We just keep working on the things we do,” he said. “We just keep our focus, one stop at a time, one play at a time.” The physical game required players from both teams to come up with big defensive stops, make key free throws, hit hotly contested buckets and find ways to get rebounds.

The Rebels finished with a distinct advantage on the boards 56-48, and that was most evident in the fourth quarter.

Senior Kierra Groll was key to the team’s win, from ball-handling to great passing and hitting some key free throws.

Groll led the team with 19 points and four assists, while Julia Hopkin added 12 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and three blocked shots.

The Rebels actually struggled a bit from the free throw line, finishing 19 of 36, but even that didn’t shake Lundgren’s confidence in his team’s ability to finish with a win.

“They like to give me gray hair,” he said laughing. “Down here there is a lot of pressure on them. The spotlight is hot. We made the ones we needed to, and we got it done.”

Senior Amber Smith said she wasn’t worried, even when their free throw shooting ensured the game was a lot closer than it needed to be.

“I think the more pressure, the funner the game, the more interesting,” the forward said. “We practice (free throws) a lot, figured they’d step up.”

Hopkin said the team is excited to be taking on rival and perennial power, Panguitch, even though the Bobcats are ranked No. 1.

“I’m excited for the game,” she said. “Panguitch is always good, physical and it’s fun.”

The key, in her mind, is defense. Groll said it would be “playing as a team.”

“Kierra is always our go-to guard,” Hopkins said. “She can handle it, shoot it. She’s the woman.”

The Badgers battled the Rebels every step of the way, with fouls rebounds eventually turning the game in Rich’s favor.

Wayne was led by Brynnli Nelson, who scored 18 points and grabbed six steals, while Hannah Morrill added 12 points. Sierra Blackburn led the defense with 10 rebounds.

Lundgren said he doesn’t think his team sees being an underdog as a bad thing.

“I have faith in our girls,” he said. “They love that moment. They came and they performed tonight…They’re strong resilient kids. These girls have been in the spotlight a lot through volleyball and through basketball. It’s ok to be an underdog. They rise up to that challenge.”

In the other 1A girls quarterfinal games, Panguitch defeated Wendover 65-21. Kapri Orton led the Bobcats with 19 points, while Brittney Henrie added 12 points, and Mataya Barney finished with 10 points. Tanya Duran led the Wildcats with nine points, while Adriana Delgadillo finished with six points and nine rebounds.

No. 3 Milford defeated No. 2 Piute in a thriller, 54-53. The Tigers were led by Elena Yee’s 19 points and Kinsey Williams’ 10 points, while the T-birds were led by Mickell Morgan, who scored 28 points in the loss.

Unranked Monument Valley defeated No. 4 Tabiona 53-49 earlier in the day. Ervianne Cly led Monument Valley with 23 points, while Jamika Nelson added 13 points. For the Tigers, Aspen Stewart led the team with 19 points, while Jennasea Allred added 16 points.

In consolation play, Monticello defeated Whitehorse 56-38, Valley defeated West Ridge 65-20, Manila defeated Green River 45-32 and Bryce Valley defeated Tintic 38-24.