ST. GEORGE — Back in the preseason, the Desert Hills' girls basketball players were asked how they wanted to define their upcoming season. The majority said they were ready to pride themselves on the defensive side first.
The Thunder turned in another spectacular defensive performance in the 3A quarterfinals Friday afternoon at Dixie State College, limiting Judge to just 24 percent shooting in a dominating 48-36 victory.
It was a particularly satisfying performance for coach Chris Allred, who lost a lot of sleep about how to defend Judge star Kailie Quinn. The sophomore scored a career-high 31 points in the quarterfinals the day before, and Allred toyed around with possibly playing a box-and-one defense or a triangle-and-two defense to slow her down.
In the end, the Thunder opted to stick with the good old-fashioned zone defense, which worked to perfection.
"Basically it just came down to the fact that we decided this morning we're not going to reinvent ourselves in one day. So we're just going to do what works well for us and go out and give 'em heck, and if it doesn't work then they're a better team," said Allred.
Quinn still finished with 20 points, but the bulk of those came in the fourth quarter long after the game had been decided.
Desert Hills' suffocating zone defense held Judge to just four field goals and 10 points in the first half as it built a 20-10 lead. It extended the lead to 32-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
Quinn only had nine points through three quarters, but she wasn't the only one struggling as collectively the Bulldogs shot just 18 percent in the first three quarters. It got a bit better in the fourth quarter as Judge more than doubled its output through the first three quarters.
"Defensively we just know that as long as we can stop them, we have enough faith in our team that we can score," said Desert Hills sophomore Blair Bliss about the commitment to defend.
Bliss finished 10 points, while fellow sophomore Haley Bodnar led the way with 18.
Judge had no answer defensively for Bodnar once the 6-foot-3 center got the ball in the post.
"When she catches it on the block and goes to the basket, she's almost automatic," said Allred.
With the victory, Desert Hills advances to the 3A championship game against region rival Snow Canyon at 11:30 a.m. Judge will face Juab in the third-place game at Pine View High School at 9:30 a.m.
"It's going to be a slugfest, but it will be a great atmosphere for the girls," said Allred.
The Region 9 rivals split the season series, with the road team winning each game.