CEDAR CITY — When Emery and Richfield meet on the basketball court, it is bound to be a physical contest. And that is exactly the kind of show the Region 15 rivals put on in the girls 2A championship at Southern Utah University Saturday afternoon.
After defeating Emery twice during the regular season, the Richfield Wildcats capped a near perfect season with their 21st consecutive win, a 41-27 title-clinching victory over the Spartans.
“We knew that we’d already beat them twice this year, but we knew we’d have to come back even harder this time,” Richfield senior Sloane Roundy said afterward. “It’s always tough to beat a team three times.”
Other than a lopsided second quarter, which the Wildcats won 18-6, it was just a two-point ball game as the Spartans made Richfield work hard every single play. Emery guards Shelby Allred, Ashlynn Allred and Kelsie Cox spent most of the game diving on the ground.
“That’s just Emery-Richfield, and that goes way back before I moved to Richfield,” Wildcats coach Marc Peterson said of the level of physical play. “That started a long time ago, and every game we’ve had with them, it’s been physical. We expected that exact same thing tonight.”
The Spartans utilized a full-court press in an attempt to slow the Richfield offense, but the Wildcats’ size advantage in the post and hot shooting from outside made them hard to stop. Richfield shot 60 percent from 3-point range in the first half and 42.4 percent from the floor in the game. By contrast, Emery shot 18.8 percent from beyond the arc and 25.6 percent from the floor.
“I thought they controlled what went on,” said Emery coach Dean Stilson. “They did a really good job defensively. We shot the ball OK. We just didn’t get enough shots.”
Shelby Allred led the Spartans’ scoring with eight points. The senior also hit two 3-pointers, and had two steals and an assist in her final game. Emery’s only other senior, Jeridi Price, finished with five points, seven rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
“Our two seniors did a ton for us these last two games,” Stilson said. “It took a lot of pride for them to do what they did today.”
Sophomore Bailey Rasmussen played stellar inside for Emery, forcing the Richfield posts to work around her.
“She alters shots. She plays hard,” Stilson said of the sophomore, who had three points and two steals. “She doesn’t stand out because we have all those guards, but she’s done a great job for us.”
Sophomore Ashlynn Allred had five rebounds, one point and one steal, and junior Kelcie Cox had five points, three steals, and an assist. Hannah Dyer had five points, three assists and two steals.
Meanwhile, Roundy directed the Wildcat offense throughout the weekend, and throughout her career at Richfield. She finished the championship game with five points, three boards, four assists, three steals and a block.
Guard Mckell Lajeunesse scored 12 points, hit two 3s and snagged four steals.
“Our guards stepped up this whole weekend,” Peterson said. “Obviously the plan of everybody is to take away our inside game, and our guards stepped up. When they started to crowd Megan (Bean) and our other post players, they stepped up and hit some shots.”
In spite of the pressure, Bean found a way to score for the Wildcats, and recorded a game-high 14 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“All I tell her is, ‘Megan, go post up. I’ll get you the ball,’” Roundy said. “We know if we give it to her down low she can score every time. She just owns the paint.”
Senior Sammi Beck had six points and two steals; senior Alethia Munoz blocked three shots, scored four points and had four steals; and junior Madison Utley pulled down five boards and had an assist and a steal.
A year ago, the Wildcats suffered a two-point loss to North Summit in the quarterfinals.
“Everybody in the state knows we bowed out a little early last year,” he continued. “From the day after that happened, these girls set their minds to coming back and getting the title.”
A senior-heavy team, Peterson was pleased his players finished their careers with another ring.
“I told those seniors that each of them deserve a little carving of our floor because they’ve worked their tails off for four years,” Peterson said. “I just feel so good for my girls.”
Deseret News 2A Girls All-Tournament Team
MVP — Megan Bean, Richfield
Shelby Allred, Emery
Chennin Benson, Parowan
Mckell Lajeunesse, Richfield
Jeridi Price, Emery
Sloane Roundy, Richfield
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