No. 2 Richfield 53, No. 3 Carbon 49

After 11 years since his last championship win and four runner-up finishes during that time, coaching legend Marc Peterson and his Wildcats are getting one more chance together.

The No. 2 Wildcats secured a berth in the 3A state championship game for the fifth time since 2013 with an impressive win over Carbon, 53-49 on Friday.

Peterson, a 24-year coaching veteran with the seventh-most wins all-time in state history (360), announced his retirement effective at the of the season.

With three state titles to his name, that potential fourth looks even closer now that the Wildcats get to keep their white jerseys on for the championship after No. 5 Emery’s upset of No. 1 Grantsville.

“It’s definitely very important to us to go finish it for Coach Pete,” junior forward Abbee Albrecht said.

“He’s been a huge influence in all our lives, and he’s been a great coach. We all want to go get it done for him.”

Albrecht was her team’s leading scorer with 17 points on 8 of 14 shooting along with a team-high six rebounds Friday, while senior guard Kamryn Knutson added 11 points.

The Wildcats shot 19 of 42 from the field and had a considerable advantage in assists on Carbon, 11-2.

Though Richfield stayed firmly in control of the game after the first quarter, Carbon made multiple attempts at rallying.

Each rally by the Dinos was answered in kind with Richfield going on another run to extend the lead.

“We trusted each other the whole time,” Albrecht said. “We took care of the ball, and we trusted each other. That helped a lot.”

After Carbon jumped ahead 16-13 early in the second quarter, Richfield’s first major lead came on a 12-0 run through most of the period.

The Wildcats outscored Carbon 14-5 to the end of the half to lead 27-21 going into intermission.

In the fourth quarter, the Dinos pulled out all the stops in a final attempt to get over the hump.

When Richfield looked to have it in hand, Carbon kept the Wildcats on their toes when Madi Orth drained a long 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game with 15 seconds remaining.

In those final seconds, Richfield got the ball inbounds, drew the contact and Sarah Winters calmly sunk both free throws to seal the deal.

Carbon was led by Orth with 20 points. Amiah Timothy and Jacie Jensen added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

With Emery making it in, the Wildcats will find themselves in a rematch of the 2018 3A championship game, which was won by a dynastic Emery team, 41-36.

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No. 5 Emery 43, No. 1 Grantsville 41

The top seed in the 3A tournament has fallen, and in its place stands the team that was a titan in its own right not so long ago.

No. 5 Emery used a thrilling defensive performance and overcame a plethora of turnovers in an intense matchup to down No. 1 Grantsville, 43-41, and secure a berth in the state championship game.

During the regular season, Emery had sustained losses to just about every major contender in 3A, including Carbon, Richfield and even Juab, but the Spartans and Cowboys hadn’t seen each other during the year.

It became apparent quickly that Emery’s size advantage, led by Katelyn Nielson and Kenadie Maughan, was more than a match for the Cowboys’ quickness.

“It’s a big accomplishment for us, especially the way the season started,” Emery coach Jon Faimalo said.

“We had injuries and didn’t ever feel like we’d gotten going until the end of the season, but we were playing good ball at the end of the season, and that’s what’s important right now.”

Grantsville had the final possession of the game with two seconds on the clock, but knowing that no shot in the paint was a good one against Maughan down low, junior forward Baylee Lowder forced a contested 3-pointer that fell well short of the mark as Emery’s fan contingent exploded in celebration.

“It’s insane,” Maughan said. “Last year we didn’t do as well as this year, and our goal is to get a state championship, and we’re almost there.”

Maughan had just seven points for the game, but her presence in the interior made it feel like a lot more, especially in opening up opportunities for Nielson, who led the team with 15 points on a perfect 5 of 5 shooting.

Junior guard Kali Jensen added 11 points.

Defense ruled on both ends of the court, but in different ways. Emery used its size advantage to hold Grantsville to just 13 of 57 shooting from the field, but Grantsville used an intense full-court press through most of the contest and forced an inconceivable 32 turnovers, including 21 in the first half.

“At the end of the day, turnovers or not, we have to continue to play aggressive and grind,” Faimalo said. “That’s what’s most important.

“You can look at the stats all day. The most important stat is the scoreboard.”

The scoreboard took a while to go in Emery’s favor as well, but despite the harrowing defense of the Cowboys, the Spartans held them close and never trailed by more than six points.

By the second half, Emery had settled well into its halfcourt defense, rightly confident that they could handle any of the Cowboys’ shooters.

Grantsville shot a decent 8 of 28 from the 3-point line, five of which came from Lowder, but inside the arc, the Cowboys were stuffed, shooting 5 of 36 on 2-pointers.

Emery retook the lead for good in the third quarter with an 8-2 run to go up, 32-29.

Lowder led the Cowboys in scoring with 15 points from her five 3s, and junior Avery Allred had another 10 points.