CEDAR CITY — Without any seniors on its roster, Cedar’s girls basketball team took the floor Thursday a bit unsure of itself.
After all, this bunch of underclassmen was facing a confident Carbon team that bounced heavily favored Juan Diego the weekend before, a team with a great defensive reputation — especially at the state tournament.
That uncertainty plagued the youngsters early in Thursday’s 3A quarterfinal round at Southern Utah, but once the players settled into the game, their confidence swelled and Cedar eventually coasted to the 43-29 victory.
So what triggered the belief? Sophomore Courtney Morley said it was pretty easy.
“Noticing that we could actually stick with them, that we have the talent that we can compete with them," she said. "They were a great team and they pushed us great."
Cedar trailed 6-5 after the first quarter, but it quickly realized there was no reason to be intimidated. Javlyn Weaver and Lisa Ballenger both hit 3-pointers in the second quarter as Cedar opened up a comfortable 21-12 halftime lead.
Even though Cedar settled in offensively in the second quarter, it was defensive intensity that started everything.
“I always tell them when the butterflies get going and you’re nervous, just play hard, just play hard defense, and let the game take care of itself,” said Cedar coach John Elison.
That defensive effort continued throughout the second half, and Cedar finally started to pull away in the fourth quarter as Morley scored nine of her 10 points to spearhead the victory.
Next up for Cedar is a daunting task against No. 1 Desert Hills, which is riding a 17-game winning streak heading into Friday’s semifinal at 2:30 p.m.
Desert Hills already beat Cedar by 15 points and then 35 points this season, but Elison and his girls welcome the challenge.
“I just tell these girls, 'This is state tournament time.' When you get to this point you just need a little bit of luck in your hands and you’ve just got to play hard,” said Elison. “Yes, we’ve got kind of a goliath in front of us, but we’re not afraid to play them again.”
Cedar is on a mini five-game winning streak of its own, and Morley said there’s no reason to be intimidated.
“I really think we have a very good chance to beat them because we’ve been hustling so well these past five or six games,” said Morley.