SALT LAKE CITY — Davis High’s Jessica Richardson understands the agonizing heartbreak of approaching the free-throw line in a tight game — and missing.
“We work a lot on free throws, because that’s what wins the game,” she said. “I learned that hard lesson against Layton last year because I missed a couple. It’s the easiest shot in the game.”
The dedication paid off.
Richardson crashed the glass relentlessly Monday in Davis’ first-round match-up against West at Salt Lake Community College, correlating to her game-and-season-high 27 points — while connecting on 13-of-13 attempts at the line — as the Darts easily advanced, 63-34.
“It’s great,” Richardson said. “It’s definitely a team effort because I couldn’t get all the points if my guards weren’t shooting it and pulling the defense out.”
Davis (16-6), which entered as the No. 1 seed from Region 1, appeared fidgety in the opening eight minutes against the Panthers (11-11), the fourth seed out of Region 2.
Despite numerous offensive rebounds and an array of open shots, the Darts trailed, 11-10, after West’s Maddy Murphy caught fire from the perimeter. Murphy led the Panthers with 20 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
“I think it's just jitters. It’s a different arena and it’s the excitement of state,” Davis coach Anne Jones said. “West is coming in as a four-seed and we’re coming in as a No. 1 seed, they’ve got really no expectations and we do. I think that was the difference.”
The apprehension didn’t last long.
The Darts opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run behind Richardson and Natalie Mecham, who finished with 10 points.
“We knew that coming in that we had an advantage in the post,” Jones said. “But we also know that they were quick and athletic; that we needed to be able to stay with their guards.”
Unable to keep Davis off the offensive glass, West continuously found itself out of position, which led to a massive free-throw disparity. The Darts hit 31-of-41 from the line compared to West’s 9-of-16.
“We’ve been consistent at the free-throw line, but it’s a credit to these guys,” Jones said. “They got offensive board and then they went up hard — and they got fouled. So, you make them pay for fouling you.”
Davis will meet Riverton Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The ’Wolves won the first meeting on the opening week of the season, 41-36.
"It was the first game of the year, both teams are different," Jones said. "We’re not the same — I don’t think Riverton is the same team. It’ll be a different game. Riverton is a very fundamental, physical team. So, we’ll have to be able to match their physicality.”
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