No. 1 seed Ridgeline and No. 2 seed Desert Hills both took care of business in the 4A semifinals at Dixie State on Tuesday, both winning by 12 points to set up a showdown in Saturday’s state championship.
Ridgeline 53, Green Canyon 41
Ridgeline can be forgiven for a bad eight-minute stretch of basketball on Tuesday because the other 24 minutes were just so good.
The first 21 minutes helped No. 1 Ridgeline build a commanding 20 point lead on Green Canyon in the 4A semifinals at Dixie State. It followed that, however, with a brutal eight-minute scoring drought that allowed Green Canyon to fight all the way back to within six points before Ridgeline finally scored again and put the game away over the final three minutes for the 53-41 victory.
With the win Ridgeline advances to Saturday’s championship at 3 p.m. against Desert Hills.
“I’ve known these girls for a long time. They’ve played on teams growing up, one coached by my husband (Jared Jenks) and one coached by Tony Brown who played at Utah State. They’ve played for a long time together and since they were really little they’ve said we want to play in state championship games, so it’s really fun to see all their hard work playing off,” said Ridgeline coach Ainsli Jenks.
Emilee Skinner led Ridgeline in scoring with 23 points against Green Canyon, with Elise Livingston chipping in with 16.
Skinner was outstanding offensively in the first half scoring 15 of her 23 points, and then at the other end she contributed to a suffocating defensive effort which held Green Canyon to just 10 points at the half. Ridgeline’s athleticism made it extremely difficult for Green Canyon to generate any quality looks at the basket.
“Most kids we can say this is your defensive assignment tonight and everyone of them can do that defensive assignment. They play really good hard man defense,” said Jenks.
Despite the 24-10 lead, Jenks knew the lead wasn’t safe.
“We knew coming into the second half that Green Canyon wasn’t going to just roll over and say, ‘Well, that was not a great first half for us so we’re going to lay down.’ We knew that wasn’t going to happen,” said Jenks.
Green Canyon came out with more urgency in the third quarter, but Ridgeline matched it early on with sharp shooting as Macie Brown buried a pair of 3-pointers and then Livingston and Hallee Smith made 3s of their own to stretch the lead to 20 points. And then the scoring ceased.
“We we kind of let down a little bit cause we had the big lead,” said Skinner.
As Ridgeline missed shot after shot, Green Canyon slowly chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to 44-38 with 3:18 remaining before the favorite Riverhawks finally stopped the bleeding.
Maren McKenna led Green Canyon in scoring with 18 points, with Cambree Tensmeyer adding 11.
Desert Hills 55, Sky View 43
Desert Hills finally got over that semifinal hump.
After bowing out of the 4A state tournament in the semifinals each of the past two years, the Thunder made the plays necessary in the second half to pull away from defending state champ Sky View for the 55-43 victory at Dixie State.
No. 2 Desert Hills will face No. 1 Ridgeline in the state championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday as it seeks its first state championship since 2014.
“They’ve been here, they understand and that’s what they want. They want that big prize and that’s what they’ve been working for all year,” said Desert Hills coach Ron Denos.
Enid Vaifanua, Sa’de Turlington and Alivia Cluff all scored 13 points to pace Desert Hills, with Julia Jacobsen adding 10.
The difference against Sky View was a decision stretch of the third quarter in which Desert Hills’ lead ballooned from 22-20 to 34-23 by the end of the quarter. The lead reached 14 points on a couple of occasions before Sky View made a big push of its own, cutting the lead to 45-40 with 3:06 remaining in the game.
“They’re a good team and you know they’re going to have a run it’s just a matter of us to be able to get through it and settle ourselves down. Had to call a timeout and refocus in what we’re trying to do,” said Denos.
The Thunder closed on a 10-3 run to put the finishing touches on a 14th straight victory.
The last time Desert Hills lost was back on Dec. 17 at Ridgeline 51-47.
It will get a chance to avenge that loss with a championship on the line.
“I think we’re probably the more experienced team. I know they’re young, they’re quick, they’ve got great shooters. One of our weaknesses is honestly kind of shooting, but I think we can run,” said Turlington.