CEDAR CITY — By its own lofty standards, Desert Hills’ 28-point victory Thursday night wasn’t anything to trumpet home about.
Don’t be mistaken, it was more than enough to roll past Juab, 57-29, and into the 3A semifinals at Southern Utah University. But Desert Hills isn’t just interested in winning games — it’s been doing that all season.
“All year long we’ve told the girls we’ve got a team where we can’t play according to the scoreboard. We have to play to our potential,” said Desert Hills coach Chris Allred. “So that was the only thing that disappointed me today was we didn’t play to our potential, and a little bit of a lack of focus.”
The focus was still good enough for the Thunder to win by their exact 28-point season average, but there was plenty to correct ahead of Friday’s 2:30 p.m. semifinal game against region rival Cedar.
“Overall we just didn’t rebound as aggressively as we have throughout the season and most importantly defensively we didn’t play with the same intensity,” said Allred, whose team has now won 17 straight.
Some of that could be attributed to Desert Hills using a more conservative half-court defensive game plan to conserve energy for the inevitable quick turnaround to the semifinals.
Offensively, underdog Juab did a good job confusing Desert Hills as well.
The Wasps packed it in defensively, making it impossible for Desert Hills to get the ball inside to senior center Haley Bodnar, who was held well below her season average with just three points.
“We kind of weren’t sure how to handle their defense because it was so compact in the middle. It was kind of like, 'Do I take the shot?' Shots weren’t falling at first,” said senior guard Blair Bliss, who tallied 12 points. “Once we got it going we got the hang of it. We kind of weren’t meshing as a team at first, but we got through it. It’s just a good game to get out of the way.”
Desert Hills went nearly four minutes without scoring in the first quarter, but the shots eventually started dropping as it built a 16-1 lead after the first and increased it to 32-13 by halftime.
Kenzie Done settled in better than anyone for Desert Hills. The sophomore attacked the basket regularly, finishing with 17 points on 9-of-10 free-throw shooting.
“We didn’t play quite the way we wanted to and the way we expected to, but at this point a win’s a win and we’ll take it and advance,” said Allred.