ST. GEORGE — A changing of the guard happened in Region 9 basketball this season. The juggernaut Cedar Reds handed the crown of undisputed champions to the Desert Hills Thunder, who went 14-0 through the regional calendar.
The Thunder won every game in Region 9 by at least 14 points except for one: a 68-65 victory on Jan. 14 over the Pine View Panthers, the team chosen in the preseason coaches’ poll to win the region. Desert Hills followed it later with a 64-48 win on Feb. 9 at Pine View, making them the unquestioned frontrunner in the league.
Pine View, in turn, swept every team in the league to clinch the No. 2 spot in the final standings. The Panthers entered the state tournament as the No. 1 seed and Desert Hills the No. 2, with a fair expectation that the two would meet in the state championship game. Instead, both were upset in stunning fashion in the semifinals.
The Reds still cemented themselves third in the standings, also surpassed by a Pine View team that sat atop the RPI standings for an extended period during the season. Hurricane, at 7-7, rounded out the top half of the standings with a renewed, aggressive style under new head coach Pepper Reddish.
But no team got close to Desert Hills.
On Thursday, Region 9 coaches released their postseason all-region rosters with the Thunder understandably well represented.
Here are the results from the polling:
MVP: Shailee Bundy, Desert Hills
The best player on the best team in the league earns recognition as the league’s most valuable player.
Bundy controlled the post for Desert Hills, averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds on the full season. In Region 9 play, those numbers improved to 15.8 and 10.9, respectively. During the regular season, Bundy scored in the double digits in all games but one, posting seven points against Canyon View on Jan. 28. She topped out at 25 points in Region 9 play, also against Canyon View on Jan. 5.
Bundy shot 71% on field goals, without attempting a 3-pointer on the season. That’s not to say she couldn’t shoot from deep but she knew she was most valuable on the inside.
The 6-foot senior used her strength to control the paint. She routinely simply muscled competition out of the way to open herself up for shots and rebounds. She was able to constantly put herself in positions to take high-percentage shots.
Bundy was the focal point of a diverse Desert Hills offense that could shoot from the outside and move the ball at a high level. They had other options to score but continued to rely on her because she was consistently reliable.
She did miss three Region 9 contests, but excelled enough to be selected the league’s most valuable player regardless. Because of the missed time, she ended up ranking seventh in the league with 168 points. All five players in front of her played at least one more game.
“We’re really going to miss Shai,” Desert Hills head coach Ron Denos said after the team’s elimination in the semifinals. “That’s going to be a tough one to lose because she was a vital part.”
Defensive MVP: Averi Papa, Pine View
Had the Panthers taken a win against Desert Hills, a conversation for Papa to be overall MVP would be much more extensive.
The 6-foot 3-inch senior led Region 9 with 222 points despite missing a contest. The only other region player to broach 200 points was teammate Alex Olson.
Papa, the league’s tallest player, was the only post player that could really compete with Bundy physically one-on-one. Her length let her reach over shorter competition.
She was third in the league with 9.5 boards per game and third with 2.5 steals.
When Pine View fell to Desert Hills in overtime, Papa did her part. She scored 27 points, tying for a personal season high with two other contests. In Region 9 play, she broke 20 points five times and had six double-doubles.
Papa takes her talents to Dixie State following her graduation from Pine View.
Julia Jacobsen, Desert Hills
Alex Olson, Pine View
Haley Chesley, Hurricane
Enid Vaifanua, Desert Hills
Sa’de Turlington, Desert Hills
The Desert Hills supporting cast, all juniors or younger, will not have to make up much room with Bundy’s graduation next season. Julia Jacobsen will take over primary post play and is more than capable of doing it. Jacobsen averaged 13.5 points a game for the Thunder and pulled down nearly six boards a game.
Sa’de Turlington was a defensive staple on the backcourt and elite ball mover in the front court. She led Region 9 with 3.2 steals per game and 5.3 assists. She wasn’t often asked to be the team’s primary scorer, but filled the role nicely by posting a season-high 19 points against Pine View in the teams’ second meeting on Feb. 9. She shot 45% from the field, leading all Region 9 guards.
Many of Turlington’s assists went to Enid Vaifanua, one of the league’s top shooters from the outside. Vaifanua landed the third-most 3-pointers in the region and averaged 12.5 points per game.
Alex Olson, meanwhile, was the region’s top shooter from the arc. She landed 44% of her 104 deep shots for 15.1 points per game. She also shot 77% on free throws. As previously noted, her 212 Region 9 play points were second only to Papa.
Haley Chesley led a scrappy Hurricane team offensively. Chesley’s 15.6 points a game were second to Papa through sheer force of will and taking shots. Her 176 field goals attempted were the second most in the league. She put together the league’s top scoring performance on Jan. 28 against Dixie, scoring 38.
Kealah Faumuina, Dixie
Natalie Olson, Snow Canyon
Braylee Peterson, Cedar
Aly Schmitt, Pine View
Mady Jensen, Pine View
Kealah Faumuina is likely to assume the throne of top big in the league. She ranked fifth in the league with 14.9 points a game as a freshman. The underclassman already shows substantial size for her age and landed more than half of her field goals.
“She doesn’t realize just how good she can become,” Dixie head coach Ryan Forsey said.
Natalie Olson was a bright spot for a Snow Canyon team that struggled. Olson averaged nearly two 3-pointers a game en route to 192 Region 9 points. She broke the 20-point mark against Crimson Cliffs on Jan. 26.
Braylee Peterson anchored a Cedar team that, while not as formidable as it once was, still clawed to a third-place finish in Region 9. Data is only available for nine of her games in Region 9 play, but she scored at least eight in each of those, totaling 116 points. She nearly averaged 13 points a game.
Aly Schmitt played a supporting role to Papa in the post. She averaged 10.5 points a game and 6.9 rebounds. She routinely scored in the double digits, scoring fewer than 10 only five times on the Region 9 schedule, three of which came in the first three games of the season.
Mady Jensen scored 7.6 points a game and shot 43% from the field. As Schmitt was a key secondary piece to Papa, Jensen was the same to Olson. Jensen showed her ability to score in the preseason, posting a season-high 23 on South Sevier on Dec. 29.
Addison Newman, Canyon View
Riann Gines, Crimson Cliffs
Alivia Cluff, Desert Hills
Harlee Nicoll, Canyon View
Abby Davis, Cedar
Addi Shaffer, Dixie
Addison Newman quarterbacked the Canyon View offense to the tune of 154 points. She scored 20 in a 47-40 win over Crimson Cliffs on Feb. 11. Newman led the league with 60 free throws made. She was third with 3.8 assists a game.
Riann Gines was a bright spot for a Crimson Cliffs team that went winless in region play. The sophomore was third in the league with 195 points with a league-leading 193 field goal attempts. She also led Region 9 with 12.9 rebounds a game. Her 10 double-doubles led the region.
Alivia Cluff fought her way into the starting lineup at times after showing strength on both ends of the court. She scored double digits five times in region play.
Harlee Nicoll anchored the post for Canyon View, averaging 8.9 boards a game. Her 56 offensive rebounds were second only to Gines’ 79.
Abby Davis scored 119 Region 9 points, including a season-high 23 on Feb. 16 against Crimson. In that game, she landed five from the perimeter.
Addi Shaffer tied with Nicoll for No. 9 in the points per game leaderboards. She shot 75% on free throws and was sixth in the league with 2.9 assists a game.
*Disclaimer: Statistics are cited from MaxPreps.com. Databases may be incomplete or incorrect and may reflect in the final tallies.
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