SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Judge had Wasatch's number, winning nine straight prior to the Wasps' victory in last year's 3A state championship.
Suddenly the roles have reversed.
No. 1 Wasatch overwhelmed Judge in the 3A semifinals at the Huntsman Center Friday night, rolling to the 55-42 victory and moving one win away from back-to-back state titles.
"It's obviously been our goal all season. We knew we had the team and we knew everyone was out to get us, but we got here. We're just happy to be here," said Wasatch point guard McKay Murdock, who finished with 11 points.
Wasatch now turns its attention to Morgan in tonight's 3A championship game at 7:30.
Unlike its quarterfinal win over Cedar in which Wasatch waited until the fourth quarter to pull away, the Wasps did their damage early. They jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and then increased it to 16-7 by the end of the quarter. By the half, the lead had ballooned to 29-16 and the game was all but over.
"Getting off to a good start is always a good thing. We had a big crowd, you get the momentum early, they get you going and then you can build off of that," said Murdock.
When these teams met in the preseason, Judge played a triangle-and-two defense to limit the production of Wasatch's one-two punch of Mike Brown and Murdock. It nearly worked, but the Wasps still prevailed 50-47.
Wasatch expected Judge to play a similar defense, but it was ready.
"That gave us trouble the first time we played them this year," said Murdock. "We had a shoot-around this morning, and that's basically all we worked on. Matt and Alex knew they were going to have to step up and hit shots and that's what they did."
Leading by 13 at the half, Wasatch extended the lead to 21 at one point, with most of the damage coming from the line, as it made 24-of-34 free throws.5 comments on this story
Including the regular season victory back in December, Wasatch's winning streak over Judge now stands at three.
"It feels so good (to beat Judge)," said Pelo.
The teams will be back in the same region next year, so the rivalry figures to heat up even more.
While Wasatch was doing virtually everything right in the first half, shooting 48 percent, Judge couldn't get anything going, shooting just 27 percent.