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High school girls basketball: Cedar City leaves no doubt as Reds claim second consecutive 4A state championship

Cedar celebrates after defeating Pine View for the 4A girls basketball championship title at the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Cedar celebrates after defeating Pine View for the 4A girls basketball championship title at the Dee Events Center in Ogden on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

OGDEN — When the Cedar girls basketball team started team activities in preparation for this season, the group had one thing on its mind.

Repeat.

The team worked all season to make that mantra a reality, and on Saturday, they did exactly that.

The Reds left no doubt in a 61-44 defeat of Pine View to claim the 4A state championship, their second consecutive title.

“To do it with the girls, it means so much. We all love each other so much,” Reds guard Samantha Johnston said.

“It’s a lot of our senior years, the last time wearing a Cedar uniform, and we definitely wanted to end on the right note. Our last two years, 49-2? It doesn’t get much better than that and I love my team,” guard Mayci Torgerson added.

After leading by two following the first quarter, Cedar ran away with it in the second, outscoring Pine View 25-13 in the period. The Reds employed a press that caused deflections and turnovers and turned a close game into having full control.

Cedar also hit five 3-pointers in the second quarter to extend its lead.

“We’re a good 3-point shooting team. We have multiple players that can shoot 3s. I have complete confidence in Japrix (Weaver), Sam and Mayci,” head coach Corry Nielsen said.

In the second half, the Reds kept their foot on the gas, not letting Pine View back into the game as Nielsen ran more sets and plays to get his shooters open.

Cedar locked down on the defensive end, too, forcing 13 Pine View turnovers and scoring 20 points off those turnovers. The Reds held Pine View to 44 points, well below the Panthers’ season average of 56.5 points per game entering the tournament.

“Defense is always our emphasis. We played that team earlier in the season twice. We knew their strengths and weaknesses and got it done on the defensive end,” Torgerson said.

“We knew what they were doing and they knew what we were doing. We had to help out in the paint and we had to get more rebounds,” Nielsen added. “I told the girls if we will outrebound them, we have a good chance to win the game. That was the key to the game.”

What makes coaching basketball special for Nielsen are the girls that he gets to lead. He could sit down all day and tell a different stories about each member of his team.

There’s Weaver, the senior guard who scored 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had five blocks and three assists in the championship game.

“(She’s) been on the varsity (team) for all four years. You see her ACL tear and you see how hard she’s fought back and the time and the effort to get back to be able to play,” Nielsen said. “Last year, she probably played at 60% in the state tournament and she was so discouraged. To see her come back and get to 100% — she’s the best player in the state.”

There’s junior point guard Logann Laws, who had six points, three assists and four rebounds.

“Logann, how hard she’s worked on becoming a better shooter,” Nielsen said.

There’s Johnston, a junior who scored 10 points and had five rebounds, six assists and two steals.

“Samantha, how she’s come in here and fit in so perfectly with the girls,” Nielsen said. “She doesn’t care about scoring. She just wants everyone else to succeed.”

There’s Torgerson, a senior who moved to Cedar two years ago. She scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Reds and also had eight rebounds, two steals and an assist.

“She took a chance. Her family took a chance. Look what’s happened to her,” Nielsen said.

And then there’s senior forward Denim Henkel, who had eight points and a steal.

The moments after the championship were bittersweet for Nielsen.

“These girls are so important to me that I would do anything for them. On that side, I’m sad they won’t be involved in the program anymore, but I’m happy that we won,” Nielsen said. “You spend so much time with these people that you want them to succeed, but you’ve also got to find out that there’s a time where they have to move on and do other things.”

The legacy that Cedar’s senior class, which led the Reds to two state titles and a 49-2 record over the past two seasons, leaves is immense.

“They came to practice every day to get better. They didn’t ever take any days off,” Nielsen said. “Every day they came and worked hard. They had a specific goal in mind and that was to be here.”

Deseret News 4A girls all-tournament team

co-MVPs — Mayci Torgerson and Japrix Weaver, Cedar

Ellie Wilson, Pine View

Kennedy Eskelson, Green Canyon

Logann Laws, Cedar

Sydney Peisley, Desert Hills

Averi Papa, Pine View