Lady Reds take state! Cedar caps off perfect season with 4A championship win over Ridgeline

CEDAR CITY — In a perfect ending to a perfect season, the Cedar Lady Reds defeated Ridgeline 53-40 Saturday night to capture the 4A state basketball championship.

Cedar’s Logann Laws makes a pass, Cedar vs. Ridgeline, 4A state championship game, Cedar City, Utah, March 2, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The decisive win in front of a large hometown crowd that filled the America First Event Center at Southern Utah University marked the team’s 25th win in as many games this season. It is also Cedar High School’s first state championship in girls basketball.

The first half was a defensive battle, with Ridgeline leading 7-6 after the first period. Cedar shot 1-for-19 from the field that quarter, including 0-for-12 in its first dozen attempts.

The second quarter went much the same, but Cedar managed to outscore Ridgeline 9-7 that period to take a slim 15-14 halftime lead.

“In the first half, we shot 5-for-30, but we got some great shots,” Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said after the game. “I told them to keep shooting and they’ll fall in.”

Nielsen said his team was able to use its defense to stay in control.

“That’s where it starts. That’s what we preach every day,” Nielsen said of the relentless defensive pressure that has been the Lady Reds’ trademark all season. “Our girls, they’re dead tired, but that’s what we do every day. That’s who we are.”

Cedar’s Japrix Weaver shoots a layup over Ridgeline’s Sarah Litchford, Cedar vs. Ridgeline, 4A state championship game, Cedar City, Utah, March 2, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News / Cedar City News

After starting the second half on a 9-2 run, Cedar ended up outscoring Ridgeline 16-10 during the third and 22-16 in the fourth.

For junior guard Japrix Weaver, who scored 11 points for the Lady Reds, getting to the championship game marked the culmination of a challenging and emotional journey.

A year ago, right before the last year’s basketball playoffs, Weaver, then a sophomore and the team’s leading scorer, tore the ACL in her left knee during practice and not only missed the playoffs but also the entire softball and volleyball seasons as well.

After months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Weaver gradually made her way back onto the court this year, knee brace and all.

“Having that trial and having that hardship has just made this year so much better,” Weaver said. “I’ve had to work so much harder than I feel like I ever thought I would have to.”

Like her coach, Weaver said she and her teammates knew their shots would start falling in the second half against Ridgeline, and that defense was the key to making that happen.

“We just had to keep with our defense,” Weaver said. “We played pretty good defense in the first half, with only 14 points scored on us. We knew that if we just kept getting the ball back and working the stuff on the opposite side, that the shots would come. It all starts with defense. We get our momentum going, and the shots will fall eventually.”

Leading the Lady Reds in scoring was junior guard Mayci Torgerson, who made 18 points, including 10-of-11 free throws. Fellow guard Logann Laws added 8 points.

Cedar made 18-of-22 free throws as a team, while Ridgeline was 10-for-17 from the charity stripe.

Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks said she was proud of her team’s effort.

Players battle for a rebound, Cedar vs. Ridgeline, 4A state championship game, Cedar City, Utah, March 2, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I think we played great defense on their players and ultimately going into the half a one-point game, and really low scoring was pretty different for both of us,” Jenks said. “And then, you know, in the second half we missed a few shots, some easy buckets. They made some great plays to start the half and we just never really could get out of that funk.”

“But I’m extremely proud of my girls. Cedar’s well-coached and is a great young team. I also think my girls are a great young team, and it was a fun championship.”

Leading the RiverHawks in scoring was Halle Livingston, who made 18 points. Haley Anderson added 14, including four 3-pointers.

Ridgeline’s season ended with a Region 12 title and an overall record of 22-4 in the Cache County school’s third year of existence.

As soon as the game ended, the Cedar players and coaches erupted into celebration.

The school band, just as it had after each and every home game this season, delivered a rousing rendition of the school song after the victory, with the players and fans chanting the refrain “R-E-D-M-E-N,” the school’s soon-to-be-retired mascot, one last time, as the champions began their post-game celebrations on the court.

The players were joined by a large crowd of fans on the playing floor as the trophy was presented and the Lady Reds took turns cutting down the nets, as is the winning team’s custom. Cedar’s band members were invited to cut down the other net after the players and coaches finished with the first one.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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