CEDAR CITY — In one fell swoop, the Richfield Wildcats both punched their ticket to the 2A championship game and extended their winning streak to 20 consecutive games.
The Region 15 champions defeated Kanab, 50-37, in the semifinals at Southern Utah University Friday afternoon.
“This,” Richfield coach Marc Peterson said afterward, "is an achievement. To get to the Final Four, and to get to this game (Saturday), it’s an achievement for any high school program.”
Richfield shot 50 percent from the floor and utilized a physical defensive presence to earn the win, but the Cowboys stuck with the bigger, faster Wildcats for most of the game.
“It’s called teenage girls playing their hearts out for Kanab. They weren’t going to lay down for us,” Peterson said of Kanab’s effort. “They’ve got great shooters, and they wanted it just as bad as every other team. There were some things that we could do better, but they just played us well.”
The Cowboys’ missed opportunities set in when the team suffered shooting troubles in both the second and fourth quarters. Kanab went scoreless for the first five minutes of the former and until the final minute of the latter, scoring just two points in the final eight minutes to allow Richfield to create its winning gap.
“Our whole goal was to keep the game close. We felt like if we could keep it close, we had a chance at the end,” Kanab coach Micky Houston said. “They gave us a window. We just needed to make some shots.”
The Cowboys hit five 3-pointers in the first half but failed to connect from behind the arc in the second half, finishing 4 for 25 from outside. Whitney Houston hit three of her team’s 3s and totaled 23 points. Kanab was led in scoring by Kaitlyn Glover, who recorded a game-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Ultimately, the Cowboys’ coach was happy with how his team played.
“We’re in the state tournament — we had already won,” coach Houston said. “There wasn’t anybody in that gymnasium that thought we were going to beat them, and I thought we probably played them closer than anybody’s played them this year.”
Megan Bean was the high-scorer for Richfield, scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Mckell Lajeunesse added 13 points.
The Wildcats’ attention now turns to the 2A championship game and the Emery Spartans, a Region 15 foe that Richfield has defeated twice already this season.
Peterson noted that it is difficult to beat a team three times in a row, but said, “It can be done; hopefully we can get it done. It’s going to be a tough game.”
He added that a key to the game will be playing defense in the frontcourt.
“We’ve got to contain their guards. They’re quick. They’re great shooters. And when they get on a roll with their 3-point shooting, they’re really hard to stop.”
The championship game will be played Saturday at 2 p.m. at SUU.
The Cowboys will meet Parowan in the third-place game at 11:45 a.m. at Cedar City High. It is also the third time these Region 13 teams have met. Kanab has won twice this season.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org