Grantsville 62, Carbon 21

Talk about making an impression.

The No. 1 Grantsville Cowboys looked exactly like a No. 1 team as they turned a high-stakes semifinal matchup in 3A girls basketball into a hammering against No. 4 Carbon, 62-21.

With the win, the Cowboys punched their ticket to the 3A girls basketball state championship game on Saturday.

The Cowboys played a trap defense at halfcourt all throughout the game that the Dinos simply never found their way out of. Carbon only managed 13 total shot attempts to 27 turnovers in the first half and finished 8-33 from the field. Grantsville, on the other hand, went 24-70 shooting and ultimately forced 39 turnovers.

“Our kids’ mindset today was just locked in,” Grantsville coach Megan Vera said. “We had a shootaround before, and we could just tell. The energy was locked in.”

Cowboys senior McKenzie Allen had a double-double of 16 points and 12 steals, while sophomore Baylee Lowder led the team with 23 points on 10-19 shooting. Three different Carbon players had 4 points each: senior Tatum Tanner, junior Amiah Timothy and senior Jenna Richards.

Grantsville wasted no time going to work on the Dinos. The Cowboys stole the tipoff from Carbon, then went on a 7-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from senior Ellie Thomas before Carbon called a timeout. The Cowboys were on a 12-0 run before a foul sent senior Tatum Tanner to the line to make two free throws.

What began as a hot start for the Cowboys turned into a first-quarter downpour. Grantsville went on another 14-0 run and held Carbon to just four shots while forcing a shocking 16 turnovers. When the smoke cleared, the Cowboys led, 25-2.

For almost four minutes of the second quarter, Carbon got back up and clamped down on defense, but the Dinos only managed to score another 3 points before the floodgates reopened for Grantsville.

The Cowboys closed out the last four minutes of the first half on a 15-0 run and took a 40-5 (you read that right) lead into halftime. Carbon took just 13 shots in the first half, with junior Madison Orth making the only shot. Meanwhile, the Dinos had 27 turnovers.

Grantsville sophomore Baylee Lowder and senior McKenzie Allen had 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Lowder opened the second half with more of the halfcourt suffocation that enabled her team to dominate the first half, going on a personal 6-0 run entirely off of fastbreaks.

Carbon finally scored its 10th point on a free throw from junior Kylan Sorensen with just over a minute remaining in the third, and it became the start of a 7-0 run for Carbon going into the fourth quarter, the lone highlight of a difficult outing for the Dinos.

Then, Grantsville went on another 8-0 run, and it was backups the rest of the way.

Morgan 60, Richfield 52

Early-game domination and late-game survival have given the Trojans a chance to play for it all.

No. 3 Morgan led from start to finish against No. 2 Richfield and held off a desperate fourth-quarter comeback to win, 60-52, and punch its ticket to the 3A state championship game.

The big matchup of the game was Morgan junior center Liv Jaffa going up against Richfield senior center Nicole Willardson, who is committed to Utah Tech. Surprisingly, it was Jaffa who controlled the matchup most of the game, thanks to the confidence of Morgan coach Sterling Mack, who said he had her playing varsity players in practice when she was in sixth grade.

“I just knew she had that ability to hold (Willardson),” Mack said. “She’s a Division I player, and she had the ability to keep her away from the basket.”

Jaffa led Morgan with 22 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks, while senior Elena Birkeland had 14 points and senior Amaya Rogers had 10 points. Richfield junior guard Kamryn Knutson erupted in the second half, scoring 14 of her team-high 22 points in the second to fuel a comeback attempt, while Willardson had 18 points and seven blocks.

Jaffa and Willardson were the go-to players for each offense, but Jaffa took the first of four rounds with 9 points in the first quarter as Morgan took an 18-7 lead.

Richfield worked to narrow the gap early in the second quarter and got Morgan’s lead down to 6, but Morgan responded with a 9-2 run to widen the lead. Birkeland scored 7 straight points for the Trojans to help them to take a 34-18 lead with 1:21 remaining in the half. Morgan kept the distance at halftime, 38-23.

Jaffa already had a double-double in the first half with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Willardson led Richfield with 12 points and had seven blocks. Morgan shot 39.5% from the field to Richfield’s 25.9%.

After hitting five free throws near the end of the first half, Knutson came alive for Richfield and paced a comeback bid, hitting open 3s to spread out the Morgan defense as the Wildcats drew within 10.

Richfield also held Jaffa scoreless in the third quarter. Nevertheless, as the Wildcats drew closer, Birkeland firmly took control back with a 3-pointer from NBA-range to give the Trojans a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter, 53-41.

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After an initial layup by Jaffa, Richfield went into rally mode. The Wildcats went on a dramatic 11-0 run over roughly the next five minutes to pull within a possession of the Trojans, 55-52, with under 1:30 to go.

Coming out of a timeout with just 3 seconds left on the shot clock, Jaffa blocked Willardson’s turnaround jumper to keep the lead at 3. Then, Morgan’s next possession turned into a chaotic loose ball sequence, but Jaffa again came up big, scooping up the ball and drawing a shooting foul.

“You just gotta stick together,” Mack said. “It’s the playoffs, and you expect teams to go in and adjust. It’s a game of runs.”

Jaffa drained both free throws, and the Trojans held off last-minute scoring attempts by Richfield as they sealed the deal.

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