SALT LAKE CITY — Tia Pappas said Carbon's goal was to beat Cedar by 10 points in their quarterfinal game Thursday.
Yet during every timeout — and there were plenty in the double overtime thriller — Dino guard Tia Pappas was practically pleading with her teammates, "we're not going to lose this game."
Suddenly the margin of victory didn't matter anymore, just survival. So imagine the look on Pappas' face as the final horn sounded on No. 1 Carbon's nerve-wracking 58-57 3A quarterfinal victory at the Huntsman Center. Priceless.
She celebrated with teammates at midcourt with a look of disbelief that the Dinos had actually prevailed in the toughest game of the season.
"That was a battle. I don't know that we thought it was going to be like that when we came up here," said Pappas, who finished with a career-high 33 points. "We knew every team would come to play. We set a goal to win by 10, but we won, it's OK. Whatever our goal was."
Trailing by three with 12 seconds remaining in double overtime, underdog Cedar missed two 3-pointers — including a shot by Madison Alger that circled down and out of the rim. Tara Shipp was there to clean up the glass on the second miss, but her putback slid through the net as time expired.
"It was a gut check, and the girls pulled through, and that was what I thought was important," said Cami Carlson. "We haven't had many games like that, a lot of the games we've played this year we've won by a good margin. We haven't really had to come out and make sure every possession mattered."
In a game that featured 11 ties and seven lead changes, there was pressure almost every time down the court.
Neither team really handled the pressure well either. Carbon shot 31 percent from the field (19 of 61) and 52 percent from the foul line (19 of 36). Cedar, meanwhile shot 38 percent from the field (19 of 50), 48 percent from the line (12 of 25) and turned it over 23 times.
There were so many missed free throws and turnovers in the fourth quarter, it was tough to tell if anyone actually wanted to play in Friday's semifinal.
Carbon missed four straight free throws to end regulation, and dodged a bullet when Cedar missed a short jumper in the lane at the buzzer
With both teams handed a new lease on its 3A title hopes in overtime, Cedar and Carbon started executing their offense again.
"We would score, and I would think 'OK we've got this,' but then they would come back and do the same thing. So you could never really feel comfortable. And I never did," said Carlson.
Pappas made good on her promise of refusing to lose at the end of the first overtime. With her team down three — partly because she'd missed two free throws on Carbon's previous possession — Pappas buried a baseline 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining that tied the game at 50-50.
Cedar couldn't get a shot off at the other end and the game headed into double overtime.
Pappas said she was numb during the shot, but knew her team needed a 3-pointer.
Realistically, despite setting a new career high Thursday was probably on of the more frustrating night's of her career. A 90-percent free throw shooter, she only made 14 of 25 on Thursday. She also struggled from the field making just 9-of-27 shots, and she only made one of her seven 3-pointer attempts.
Her coach said it was all mental, but a lot of it had to do with how well underdog Cedar was playing.
"Every time I felt like we were on a run, I would look at the score and we were tied or we were up by two. Nobody could get ahead, it was really nerve wracking," said Pappas.
Despite her confidence-boosting 3-pointer, Pappas continue to struggle from the free throw line in double overtime. With a chance to put the game away, she made just 3 of 6 in the final minute, and her last miss gave Cedar possession with 19 seconds remaining only trailing 58-55.
The Redmen had two good looks at potentially sending the game into triple overtime, but the rim was unkind of when they needed it most.
Carbon will have a short turnaround as as they return to the Huntsman Center on Friday at 2:30 p.m. to take on the winner of Delta-Hurricane in the second 3A semifinal.
Cedar will try and keep its season alive in the consolation bracket at 11:10 a.m.
Courtnie Duncan led the Redmen in the loss with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
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