SALT LAKE CITY — Coaches never really want to play the first game in a state tournament. They're always concerned how their players are going to handle the oddity of a 9:30 a.m. tip-off.
That wasn't a problem at all for Morgan's boys basketball team Thursday morning.
Behind a virtually flawless first half, the Trojans opened up the 3A state tournament at the Huntsman Center with a convincing 53-35 victory over Richfield.
"I was just worried about that first game. First-game jitters, it's a tough game to play in the state tournament on the big floor," said Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe.
Morgan advances to the 3A semifinals and will face the winner of Desert Hills-Union on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
It was Richfield, not Morgan, that didn't handle the early start well.
While the Trojans could do no wrong in racing to a 33-10 halftime lead, Richfield seemingly couldn't buy a bucket as it shot 4 of 23 from the field and turned it over eight times in the first half.
"Kids got after it defensively. Richfield came out tight, they couldn't make shots," said Wiscombe.
Facing the highest-scoring team in 3A, Richfield knew it needed to play a great defensive game to have any chance against the Trojans. Fifty points was the goal, but the Region 11 champs were on pace to blow through that total by the third quarter.
After a halftime pep talk from coach Rand Jones, Richfield buckled down defensively and made things interesting. Capitalizing on eight turnovers, Richfield outscored Morgan 15-4 in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 37-25.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and will now try and keep their season alive in the consolation bracket at 4:10 p.m. on Thursday as they face the loser of Desert Hills-Union.
The later start should help Richfield find its rhythm after shooting 26.1 percent on 12-of-46 shooting in the quarterfinals.
Morgan leading scorer Casey Evans was limited to 10 points — 12 below his season average — but secretly Morgan's coaches were probably glad to see it. If the Trojans are going to win the 3A title they're going to need contribution from more than just Evans, which they got on Thursday.
"I think with us you have to guard five guys, and I think that makes a difference," said Wiscombe.
In the loss, Richfield was led by Robert Toergerson who finished with 10 points.