4A high school girls basketball: Red Devils reach fourth consecutive championship game

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 7:11 p.m. MST

View the full online photo gallery from this game here.

TAYLORSVILLE — Coming in as the No. 4 seed in Region 8, they weren't exactly the favored team. But as predicted, the 4A state championship tournament has been well, completely unpredictable.

Springville earned the 61-59 semifinal victory over Mountain Crest in true tournament fashion on Friday at Salt Lake Community College, defying the odds and clinching a spot in Saturday's championship game.

The tight contest was nothing new for the Red Devils who have made an incredible playoff run that started with a huge upset over No. 1-ranked Cyprus on Monday.

"It feels amazing," sophomore Savannah Park said. "I don't think anyone imagined it. We wanted to come out and show we're a good team."

The Red Devils have certainly proved themselves capable and have demonstrated their ability to come back under pressure despite their young roster. They trailed 36-23 at halftime before mounting the comeback.

"You're never safe," Mountain Crest head coach Candace Thorton said of the Mustang letdown. "We proved that against Salem Hills (quarterfinal victory on Wednesday) and Springville proved that against us."

The Red Devils came out of halftime with a newfound vigor and outscored the Mustangs 16-8. They carried the momentum into the fourth, cutting the deficit to just one point, 51-50 with four minutes to play.

A Mustang turnover on the next possession gave Springville a chance to take the lead, and they did. Malia Nawahine turned the corner and went strong to the basket to give the Red Devils the one-point advantage.

Nawahine would prove a potent scoring threat over the next few minutes. The junior laid it in two more times in response to Kelsey Kartchner's scoring effort for the Mustangs.

After a huge 3-point play by Springville's Hannah Packard to tie the game at 58, the Red Devils secured a rebound and held the ball — stalling for an open opportunity. They were fouled instead, and Park extended the lead to two, making both her free throws with 27 seconds remaining.

Mountain Crest had three opportunities in those final seconds — including a chance to tie the game from the free-throw line with four seconds on the clock. Kartchner went 1-of-2 before sending the Red Devils to the line for a free throw of their own.

They extended the lead to two for a final score of 61-59, Springville.

Kartchner played an incredible game for the Mustangs. The sophomore finished with 25 points and pulled down an unbelievable 22 rebounds in the loss.

Four players scored in double digits for the Red Devils. Nawahine was clutch in the fourth quarter and led the team with 21 points. Savannah Park wasn't far behind, contributing 17. Packard and Ashli Averett combined for 21 points.

"Thank goodness for the team effort tonight," Springville head coach Nancy Warner said. "It takes everyone out there on the floor to make it happen."

The Red Devils have now made fourth consecutive trips to the finals. Springville takes on Timpanogos on Saturday —.

The two have played twice this season, splitting the games with one win apiece. "We just need to focus on defense and let the offense come," Park said of the rematch.

The championship game will take place at Salt Lake Community College at 11 a.m.

EMAIL: jwilde@desnews.com

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