OREM To win a state championship, teams normally have to win a game in which they don't play particularly well.
The Snow Canyon Warriors, ranked No. 2 in 4A, are hoping Tuesday's 58-53 first-round win over the Highland Rams was that game.
The Warriors almost blew a 12-point first-half lead and needed some clutch fourth-quarter moments from center Angela Walter to avoid the upset. Walter scored seven of her 10 points in the final four minutes after the Rams had closed to within one point.
"She's our go-to player for a reason and she's our leading scorer," Snow Canyon coach Wade Jensen said. "She didn't score in the first half and I don't think that's ever happened before, but she never lost her focus and was there for us in the end."
Snow Canyon, at times, looked like the team that rolled through Region 9 with a 9-1 mark. At times, however, the Warriors also showed the rust that comes with not playing a game for 12 straight days.
"We're a team that is a team of runs," Jensen said. "We're going to score a lot of points in a hurry, and sometimes we're going to give up a lot of points in a hurry."
The Rams, thanks mainly to a full-court press and a load of cherry-picking baskets by guard Mixa Kafi, always kept the Warriors in sight. When Natasha Roe banked in a layup to finish off an 8-0 run, the Rams had trimmed the score to 47-46 midway through the fourth. But two straight hoops from Walter quickly put the Warriors back up by five.
Walter also was instrumental in fighting off Highland's final charge. With under a minute to play and Snow Canyon leading 54-51, the Warriors missed the front end of a one-and-one. However, Walter grabbed the rebound and quickly put the ball back up and in. Seconds later she added a free throw that put the Warriors ahead by six.
"Highland had a great game plan and forced us to adjust, and fortunately we were able to pull away at the end," Jensen said.
It was a total team effort for the Warriors on Tuesday at Utah Valley State College. In a quick 11-0 run to give Snow Canyon some breathing room in the second, Whitney Dunlop was the spark plug with two steals and a 3-pointer. Alexandrea Jensen scored only five points for the Warriors, but all five came in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
"At times we had a hard time scoring, but thankfully we had people step up and hit some shots," coach Jensen said.Dunlop finished as Snow Canyon's top scorer with 12. Kafi scored 14 for the Rams, with Roe chipping in 10.
Top performer: Snow Canyon's Angela Walter scored seven points in final three minutes
Key stat: The Warriors opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run
Up next: Quarterfinals: Snow Canyon vs. Box Elder, Wednesday, 7:40 p.m. SLCC