ST. GEORGE — After losing to Canyon View last week, the Thunder landed back on their feet with a win against Crimson Cliffs and now a win against Snow Canyon. The Thunder rook down the Warriors on the road Wednesday by a final score of 59-38.
The Warriors cut the lead to just six points in the second quarter, but Desert Hills extended the lead to 10 at halftime. The Thunder came out of the locker room and kept going, pushing the lead to 16 at the end of the third and then winning by 21.
Kami Bliss led the Thunder with a big 27-point performance. Normally Bliss is more of a threat from the outside, but she only hit one 3-pointer on the night. The rest of her points either came in the pain or at the free throw line.
“It was a good win because they stuck to our game plan,” Thunder head coach Ron Denos said. “It’s been a while since we got back to our game plan, and now they can believe what it does to people, and I think we really had them (Snow Canyon) frustrated because they couldn’t stop us inside.”
The Thunder only hit three 3-point field goals as a team on the night; the rest of their buckets were all inside the arc. Desert Hills dominated down low with their size, and the Warriors couldn’t do much about it.
As for the Thunder’s zone defense, every team in Region 9 has had problems with it. They know what they’re going to see coming into the game, and they still can’t stop it. The biggest thing for Denos is how deceptively long his team is.
“They think they’ve got it, and we’re right there,” Denos said. “All I want to do is make them have a contested shot. We’re going to give up some every now and then, but we kind of know who we need to make sure we take care of and then see if anybody else can beat us.”
That’s also a huge part of the zone defense: the game plan. Players need to know the other team’s best shooters so they know where to put their focus. One of the biggest weaknesses of a zone defense is the outside shot. If a team can shoot 3-point shots at a high percentage, it could force a team out of their zone, but when they lock in on their shooters and add the size down low, it could be a long night.
A big improvement for the Thunder on defense will be their ability to guard the corners. Bliss and Sydney Peisley might not be able to stay in front of some guards in the corners, but the help side is going to be key. Denos pointed this out as an improvement going forward.
“We need to step out of bounds and get in front,” he said of defending the baseline drives. “Sometimes we want to lead with our hands instead of stepping over and getting completely out of bounds, then you don’t have that cheap foul.”
When asked about their upcoming game against Dixie, Denos said it is going to be huge. The Thunder’s momentum going into the postseason will be a big plus for the team.
“We kind of struggled with them a little last game,” he said. “I thought it was a battle. I’m looking forward to playing them again, but that’s a game where we got caught up in their game and got away from our game. I think they’re like a Snow Canyon, so we’ve just got to be able to play our game and stay with it.”
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