The Water Canyon High School girls basketball team has a tough road ahead in the 1A state tournament, but coach Ben Klepper said his girls are ready.

The first thing the Wildcats needed to do was get past White Horse Wednesday, which they did with a 36-17 win at Richfield High School.

“We’ve had a good season,” Klepper said. “The girls are really hard workers who have come a really long way since the start. We’re really excited to be here. We’ve had lots of close games, and a couple of them we should have won.”

Water Canyon has been around less than a decade, but it is working to establish itself in the 1A standings. 

“We’re happy to be representing our region,” Klepper said. “For a lot of these girls this is their first time playing an organized sport. They’ve all come a really long way.” 

Whitehorse kept things close through the first half of the game, which ended with Water Canyon up by three. 

“Offensively, we missed some close shots,” Klepper said. 

However, the Water Canyon defense proved to be nearly impenetrable through most of the third stanza. 

“I thought defensively we were outstanding,” Klepper said. “It really kept them down in the score, and that’s what won it for us.”

Melissa Jessop was also a key factor in the win as she blazed the way for Water Canyon, hitting the net for 27 points during the game. 

“In the third we started hitting shots and were able to put them away,” Klepper said. 

Whitehorse’s Kailee Tohonnie posted eight points as the Raider’s top scorer. 

Two years ago the Wildcats made it to the final four and are hoping to crack into it again this year. 

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“We’ve gotten a lot more competitive through the years,” Klepper said. However, standing in the way of making it to the final four is Region 20 champ Piute, a team that went 20-0 league play and is also the defending state champion.

Piute knocked Manila into the consolation bracket in a 41-28 scrap Wednesday afternoon. 

“We are prepared,” Klepper said. “At home we were up on them at halftime. I think we can absolutely play with them and I think we can challenge them and have a great game. We played them twice in region. They’re not a team we’re afraid of.”

The two teams are set to play at 4 p.m. Thursday as the tournament transitions to the Sevier Valley Center’s arena. 

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