CEDAR CITY North Sevier is looking for one more chapter in its book of redemption.
The Wolves entered the year as the defending state 2A champions, and with five players back from that team with championship experience, they were expected to be contenders again this season. A rough preseason saw the team fall to 1-3 after a loss to North Summit and brought about some doubters.
"After we lost some games early, a lot of people didn't expect us to be where we are," said coach Lexa Larson of her team reaching the title game once again after its 46-40 win over Manti in the semifinals Friday. "I did. Maybe I saw something there that others didn't, but it's been a long road back."
In reaching the finals, North Sevier first exacted some revenge on North Summit in a 48-35 win in the quarterfinals. Friday's win in the Centrum at SUU over Manti also avenged an earlier loss, as the Templars had beaten the Wolves 43-32 in the first Region 12 meeting back in January.
"We were happy with the bracket, even though we thought our side was tougher, because we got some second chances against teams," said senior Kristen Johnson, who scored 14 points. "We wanted to go out and show who was the better team."
North Sevier left little doubt which was the better team, and a big reason was the play of Johnson. According to her coach, the 5-foot-7 forward has been on a tear lately. Besides scoring 14 points, she also was involved in a bit of everything.
"For about the last four or five region games and into the tournament, Kristen has been having what we call Kirilenko nights," Larson said. "She will score around 10 points, get five or six rebounds, a few steals, a couple of assists. She has just really picked up her game."
None of Johnson's points were bigger than her short jumper in the lane with six minutes remaining in the game. North Sevier had built a 10-point lead with three minutes remaining in the third quarter at 34-24. The Wolves were up thanks to a pair of buckets by Jenny Stapel, who finished with 10 points, and a basket from Melissa Porter, who contributed 12 points.
Manti refused to quit and scored the last six points of the third quarter and the first three of the fourth to cut the lead to one at 34-33. Kassi Tucker led the Templars with 18 points, but she shot only 6-of-19 from the field, pretty much on par with the rest of the team. Manti shot 16-of-51.Manti plays Gunnison today at 1:20 p.m. in the third/fourth-place contest. North Sevier faces South Sevier at 5 p.m. in the Centrum in a rematch of last year's title game.