RICHFIELD Rich has never won a 1A girls basketball championship and that, ironically, makes the pressure of being the top-ranked team in the state bearable.
"Our volleyball team had won 15 straight (titles)," said senior forward Olivia Johnson after Rich earned a 45-30 semifinal win over second-ranked Intermountain Christian School on Friday night at the Sevier Valley Center. "This, we've never won."
Senior Marsha Stacey finished the statement for her teammate, "So it's not as scary. It's not the school tradition."
Stacey said that losing the 1A volleyball championship to Panguitch this year has only made them hungrier for a basketball title. The Rebels' victory Friday night earns them their second-straight championship appearance. They lost in overtime last year to Tabiona, a loss that still stings. Rich knows that part of succeeding this season will include dealing with the pressure effectively.
"(Losing in volleyball) kind of makes it easier," said Stacey of dealing with the pressure. "We didn't die when we lost. When our team has fun, we do a lot better."
And one of the things the Rebels love to do is run.
"We were able to get out and run tonight and that helped us," said Rich head coach Scott Ferguson. "(Rebounding) was our focus. We talked about keeping them off the glass."
The Rebels did that very well in the first half when they jumped out to a 24-11 lead at half-time.
"We let them get some rebounds in the second half and they took advantage of them," Ferguson said. "I was extremely pleased with how they played tonight."
Johnson earned seven rebounds in the first half alone and finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points. The Rebels relied on a very balanced offensive attack that included four 3-point shots. Point guard Brittani Groll finished with 10 points, five steals and five rebounds, while forward Torey Smith added 10 points and eight rebounds.
"Allie shot a little better today," Ferguson said. "Brittani was all over again. And the other girls stepped up when we needed them to. Everyone played well."
Johnson said that she can't get the rebounds she does without the rest of the team boxing out as well.
"I didn't do it alone," she said. "This feels good. It's a lot of fun."
The Lions will play for third place Saturday at 3 p.m. against fifth-ranked Panguitch, while the Rebels will face Piute in the championship game at 5 p.m.
"Yesterday (a one-point overtime win) took it's toll," said ICS coach Matt Snyder. "In the first half, they were just more physical and getting the rebounds and loose balls. But it was definitely a very successful season for us. I told the girls, I just wanted to play all four days. As long as we play hard all four days, that would be an accomplishment."
The Lions were led by point guard Brooke Anderson, who scored 10 points, Monica Schwarz, who added nine points, and Rebekah Jongert, who chipped in seven points.