RICHFIELD — The Rebels of Rich High School proved why they had the No. 1 seed heading into the 1A girls state basketball tournament as they overcame Water Canyon 48-40 in the semifinal round Friday evening.
The Rebels had to key in on Water Canyon’s Melissa Jessop, a player who scored 36 points against Valley the day before.
“I feel like we did a good job on Jessop and trying to contain her — she’s a very good player,” said Rebels coach Cody Lundgren. “I was really proud of our post and how they defended on the low block.”
Jessop ended the night with 22 points.
Meanwhile, Rich’s McKina Stacey blasted the net for 29 points, leading all scoring players. She also nabbed 12 rebounds and five steals along the way. Sydney Hatch pulled down 11 boards for Rich as the game’s top rebounder.
However, it wasn’t an easy win as Water Canyon overcame a 22-17 halftime deficit. A 3-pointer by Jessop followed by a pair of inside shots by Shanna Barlow gave the Wildcats the edge with 3:27 to go in the third period.
Stacey put a stop to the Water Canyon run by converting a three-point play, which was followed by buckets from teammates Ellianna Brown and Sage Tingey, which helped put the Rebels back in the driver’s seat.
“As things got hard and a couple of mistakes were made, they didn’t fall apart,” Lundgren said. “The girls were tough and resilient tonight.”
By the time the final stanza started, Rich was back on top 38-33. The Rebels were able to burn out the clock and cement the win.
“They just keep playing every game like it is their most important game,” Lundgren said. “These girls play for each other.”
The team first mindset has helped Rich overcome any added pressure put on them by coming in as the top ranked team, Lundgren said.
“Our guards did a great job handling the ball tonight,” Lundgren said.
Now just one game stands between Rich and its first state championship since 2011.
“The most important thing is to stay in our routine, … get our minds where they need to be tomorrow,” Lundgren said. “This whole tournament has been very competitive with a lot of battles and upsets.”
The 1A girls tournament concludes Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield as Rich takes on Milford.