In one of the most critical moments of Friday’s 4A second round game, Juan Diego coach Ashlee McKray deferred to her players on the inbounds play they wanted to run.

Sophomore post player Melissa Osmundson saw something about the way Hurricane was overplaying inbounds passes that she believed her team could expose with an over-the-top pass to speedy freshman guard Maia Rhay.

With her team leading by two with 39 seconds left, McKray’s instincts were to run a safe inbounds play in the backcourt and then try and extend the lead from the free-throw line after getting fouled.

Osmundson’s confidence changed her mind.

“When they have the confidence to execute it, as a coach sometimes you have to step back and say OK, if they believe in it they’re going to do it,” said McKray.

Juan Diego executed the inbounds play near midcourt perfectly, with Mahinetea Tavanae throwing the ball downcourt to a streaking Rhay, who tracked it down and converted the breakaway layup for the final points as Juan Diego held on for the 37-33 win.

With the win, No. 7 seed Juan Diego advances to Monday’s 4A quarterfinals at Richfield against No. 2 seed Desert Hills.

All three players that executed the decisive play for Juan Diego are underclassmen, and McKray said her team’s youth was apparent at times. But as a whole, McKray was pleased with her team’s defensive execution throughout the game.

That defense helped keep the game close even after Juan Diego posted a goose egg in the second quarter. Hurricane only scored six points of its own in the second quarter and led just 17-11 at the break. 

In the third quarter, Kira Rhay’s hot hand changed the entire complexion of the game. She snapped a 10-minute scoring drought for Juan Diego with a 3-pointer at the 6:39 mark of the third quarter.

The junior added two more 3-pointers in the quarter as Juan Diego outscored Hurricane 17-7 in the quarter to seize a 28-24 lead.

“For her to have that ability and confidence really to step up is huge for us,” said McKray.

As critical as Kira Rhay’s buckets were to halt the scoring drought, the energy it gave her teammates was just as critical, according to McKray.

“Even though Kira hit some big shots, what I loved about the team is whoever makes the shots it gets us going on defense. That’s what changed. We can get going, we can get back to our conform zone with defense,” said McKray.

In the fourth quarter, Hurricane cut the deficit to two points on three different occasions, the last coming at the 1:44 mark on a rebound putback by Britin Behrmann.

The Tigers had two 3-point attempts on their next two possessions that could’ve given them the lead, but both shots drew iron.

By the time Hurricane got the ball again, it trailed by four thanks to the creative play-calling from Juan Diego’s youngsters.