ST. GEORGE — The Desert Hills Thunder wrapped up the Region 9 girls basketball season with an unbeaten record, defeating each of the other seven teams in the region twice. In the final game of the regular season Thursday night at the Thunderdome, Desert Hills beat last year’s champions, the Cedar Reds, who ended up in third place. In other Region 9 action Thursday night, all three home teams won, with Pine View edging Dixie, Hurricane defeating Canyon View and Snow Canyon beating Crimson Cliffs.
Here’s a look at each of the contests that constituted Thursday’s season finale. The 4A girls state playoff bracket will be revealed Saturday. The statewide RPI rankings will be temporarily hidden until then.
Desert Hills 56, Cedar 42
The Thunder completed their perfect run through Region 9 taking down Cedar at the Thunderdome, taking the crown from the team that went without a loss over the past two seasons.
The Reds hung with Desert Hills in the first few minutes but the Thunder pulled away quickly to lead 19-7 by the end of the first quarter. Sa’de Turlington posted eight points alone, seven of which came in a 10-point run to end the quarter. The low-teen’s deficit would hold for the remainder of the game, giving Desert Hills its 14th win in 14 region contests. The Thunder lost only two of 20 total season contests, both coming back-to-back on Dec. 10 and 11, first to 6A Jordan then to 3A Carbon.
On senior night Thursday, the Thunder celebrated postgame on the court by cutting down one of the nets and posing with the region championship trophy.
“It’s a great feeling,” Desert Hills head coach Ron Denos said of the undefeated achievement. “There’s a few girls that haven’t had that opportunity, actually, probably all the girls… It is special. It’s very hard to, if you look back at our region, there aren’t very many teams that go unbeaten. It’s a tough region to get through.”
One of those teams to go unbeaten in a season was the same Cedar squad the Thunder had just downed to clinch this year’s undefeated run. The Reds went undefeated in region play through the last two seasons en route to consecutive state championships. Cedar returned no starters this season and finished 8-6, third place in the region. A respectable effort, but the torch has been passed on.
Desert Hills broke out to 32-18 lead at the half and disintegrated early momentum built by Cedar in the third quarter. The Reds rallied to a 36-26 deficit early on a 8-4 run to start the second half. Desert Hills instantly responded with an 8-0 run including three baskets from senior Shailee Bundy in her final regular season home game.
The Thunder spread the lead out to 20 points in the fourth quarter on a Bundy free throw to make it 53-33. Cedar took the next six points to claw back a bit in the closing minutes. Abby Davis sank a 3-pointer from the right corner to turn a 17-point loss into a 14-point one.
The closest any team got to downing the Thunder in region play was a 68-65 overtime thriller over Pine View on Jan. 14. They blew out the Panthers, the team favored to win the region in the preseason, in the team’s second meeting on Feb. 9, 64-48. No other team got within 10 points of Desert Hills in a region game this season.
The Thunder now turn their attention to the postseason, where expectations are as high as they can be. It’s state championship or bust for Desert Hills.
“I asked them, ‘Are you tired of winning yet?'” Denos said. “They said, ‘No, I think we like it.'”
Hurricane 55, Canyon View 42
At Hurricane, the Tigers came on strong in the second half to defeat Canyon View, moving into a fourth-place finish in the Region 9 standings while dropping the Falcons into fifth place.
Canyon View had started off strong, holding the Tigers scoreless for the first six minutes of the game as they took an early 7-0 lead. Canyon View went on to lead 12-6 after one quarter and 20-14 at halftime, holding the Tigers to just 3-of-18 on field goal shooting during the first half.
Hurricane shot 6-for-12 from the free-throw line during the second quarter, with each shooter making the first and missing the second shot in all six instances.
But even after that somewhat offensively dismal first half, Hurricane head coach Pepper Reddish said her pep talk to her players at halftime had a simple message.
“I just said, look, you’re acting like your beat, but you’re only six points down. We can come back,” Reddish said. “Those girls looked at me and said, ‘We’ve got this.'”
Applying a full-court press defense to start the second half, the Tigers forced several turnovers and started to hit some shots. They used a 22-7 run during the third quarter to turn a 20-14 halftime deficit into a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter.
Another key factor was as the Tigers continued to go to the free throw line regularly, they consistently made their foul shots down the stretch. Hurricane finished the game 21-for-29 from the line, as Canyon View was whistled for a total of 23 personal fouls plus two technicals. On the other end of the court, the Tigers were called for 13 fouls plus one technical during the contest.
Canyon View ended up making 8-for-13 free throws for the game; the 13-point difference in made free throws between the teams exactly matched the difference in the teams’ final scores.
Leading the way for Hurricane was Madi Staples, who scored 15 points, including 11-for-14 on free throws. Lydia Prince and Haley Chesley each added 11 for the Tigers.
Canyon View was paced by Harlee Nicoll’s 16 points, with Addison Newman adding nine.
Hurricane finishes the Region 9 slate at .500 with a 7-7 record, while Canyon View drops to 6-8 in region play.
— written by Jeff Richards
Pine View 42, Dixie 37
Averi Papa’s 22 points and key late bucket in her last regular season home game guided Pine View to a hard-fought victory in the season finale.
Papa hit a layup on a breakout off a pass from Avery Gustin at the 2:53 mark of the fourth quarter to make the score 40-35 in favor of Pine View. The two-possession difference gave the Panthers some breathing room that both teams were missing the majority of the game. It made a pair of free throws by Kealah Faumuina more bearable, as they only brought the Flyers within three with just over a minute to play. Down by a bucket from the arc in the final seconds, Dixie had no choice but to foul Alex Olson, who landed both of her free throws as well to secure the win.
It came in comeback fashion for the Panthers, who trailed by as many as six early in the first quarter. Down 16-10, Emma Jensen landed a 3-pointer from just off-left of the top of the key as the clock expired on the first frame. From there, the Panthers trimmed the lead to just two by halftime and started the third quarter on a 9-2 run to take the driver’s seat, 31-26. The Panthers closed the quarter with a two-point edge of their own, setting up the dramatic finish.
Papa scored more than half of Pine View’s points with 22. Olson was second with nine.
For Dixie, Faumuina scored 13 to lead the way. Addy Shaffer added 12.
The Panthers finish the season 12-2 in Region 9 play and 19-2 overall. Their only losses on the season came at the hands of Desert Hills. Pine View finished second to the Thunder in the final region standings.
Dixie fell to 5-9 in the region and 7-13 overall. It finished sixth in the region.
Snow Canyon 55, Crimson Cliffs 35
An early offensive outburst allowed the Warriors to coast to a win over the Mustangs at home. Natalie Olson scored eight, including a pair of treys, in a 19-point first quarter that Snow Canyon exited with a 10-point advantage.
From there, the Warriors played even with Crimson 10-10 in the second quarter, outscored it by 10 again in the third quarter 17-7 and lost the fourth 9-7 in garbage time.
Tyler Mooring and Ebony Lealao also hit treys in the first quarter. Lealao and Olson combined for seven buckets from the arc of the Warriors’ nine total over the course of the game. For comparison, Crimson Cliffs landed only 10 field goals combined.
Riann Gines led the effort for Crimson, scoring a team-leading 13 points. She scored five of the team’s nine points in the first quarter with a pair of field goals and one free throw on five attempts. She was also credited with one of the Mustangs’ two 3-pointers. Kenadee Richey was second on the team with nine points and Whitley Stookey had eight.
Olson’s 16 points led all scorers. Senior Taylan Whitehead was right behind her with 15. Lealao scored 12 to round out the double-digit scorers.
The Warriors claimed their fourth win of the Region 9 season to finish 4-10 and 5-15 overall. They finished seventh in the region standings.
Crimson Cliffs finished 0-14 in region, 2-18 overall and in eighth place in Region 9.
Region 9 girls basketball final regular season standings
- Desert Hills 14-0 (18-2)
- Pine View 12-2 (19-2)
- Cedar 8-6 (11-10)
- Hurricane 7-7 (9-12)
- Canyon View 6-8 (9-13)
- Dixie 5-9 (7-13)
- Snow Canyon 4-10 (5-15)
- Crimson Cliffs 0-14 (2-18)
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