SALT LAKE CITY — Copper Hills’ Carlin Shepherd has waited patiently and made certain to deliver in a big way when it was finally her turn.
The 6-foot forward led the Grizzlies with 14 points scored and 11 rebounds on Wednesday, helping lift her team over Lone Peak 47-40 in the quarterfinal round of the 6A state playoffs.
“I feel really good,” said an exuberant Shepherd after. “I feel like a lot of hard work has paid off for me.”
It paid off for her team, too.
Shepherd played big throughout but was particularly effective during a key third quarter run, which played a big factor in the final outcome.
Down 24-18 at the half, the Grizzlies set out on a quick 8-0 run in the third quarter to take a 26-24 lead. As is the case with a lot of scoring runs, defense played the biggest factor.
“I think we just played with a greater sense of urgency and effort,” said Copper Hills coach Ben Morley. “... We just tweaked a couple of things, but more than anything just challenged the girls to play with more toughness and more focus on the defensive end. Make no mistake about it, we won this game with defense.”
The defensive effort involved holding the Knights to just five points in both the second and third quarters, and then just 11 in the fourth.
Rebounding also played pivotal, with Shepherd doing a lot of the work, along with Samantha Rollins, who added nine, and both Keely Dettling and Lenisi Fineanganofo, both of whom had seven. Shepherd was particularly effective on the offensive glass, notching seven of her 11 rebounds on the offensive end.
“I was super motivated to get all the boards,” Shepherd said. “When the shots aren’t falling, you have to find another way.”
Altogether the Grizzlies missed out on all 12 of their 3-point field goal attempts — the type of stat Morley would have a hard time believing his team could overcome, if presented with the stat prior to the game.
But Morley’s team found other ways and, as always, was boosted significantly with the play of point guard Eleyana Tafisi. Controlling the flow of the game throughout, the senior guard scored 13 points and collected four steals while playing her best down the stretch.
The stretch run involved a late Lone Peak push, but Copper Hills withstood all of it to come away with a trip to the semifinal round where the Grizzlies will take on the winner of Bingham vs. Westlake.
As for the play of Shepherd, Morley was elated, stating, “She’s been that rock for us all year long. Eleyana gets a lot of the attention, and rightfully so — she’s a dynamic player — but Shep has been our rock in the middle and ... I’m very proud of her. She’s waiting a long time to have this opportunity and this moment.”