SALT LAKE CITY — The Snow Canyon girls basketball team took its first step toward defending its 3A championship from a year ago.

The Warriors defeated host Judge Memorial, 61-57, in the opening round of the 2013 3A state tournament Saturday evening.

“That’s as intense as they get,” Snow Canyon coach Wade Jensen said after the foul-filled game. “That’s two good teams going to battle until the very end.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t until the final seconds that the Warriors secured the win.

With the score tied 55-55 and just 2:40 remaining, Snow Canyon took the lead behind two free throws by Grace Walton. On the ensuing possession, however, Walton dove after a loose ball, banged her forehead on the court, and left the game with a bloody cut. She was restricted from returning due to a suspected concussion.

The next 45 seconds involved a succession of Snow Canyon errors, including turnovers and fouls, giving the Bulldogs plenty of opportunities to potentially take control.

However, while Judge guard Emily Smith hit two foul shots with 1:09 remaining to re-tie the game at 57-57, Snow Canyon's Ashlee Nyborg and Amy Harris put the game out of reach with two freebies apiece in the final seconds.

“We had about three or four girls that went down with injuries or cuts or other things,” Jensen said. “We had a lot of girls step up that made plays for us.”.

Senior Megan Leavitt was a difference-maker for the Warriors. The 6-foot-1 forward scored just six points in the entire first half before catching fire for 12 points in the third. She finished the game with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds.

“We thought we had an advantage in the post, and that’s what our game plan coming in was,” Jensen said, adding that the Bulldogs could not stay with Leavitt down low. “She played well. She played great for us.”

Harris, meanwhile, finished with 13 points and Nyborg added 10. Walton scored all nine of her points for Snow Canyon in the second half before leaving the game due to the injury.

The Bulldogs were led by Smith’s 20 points, while Kailie Quinn contributed 17 points.

“I thought our girls stepped up and played D, and we made some plays down the stretch that we needed to make,” Jensen said. “We have a lot of these girls that went through it last year for us. We’re thrilled with their performance and they played hard.”

The Warriors advance to the second round of the tournament, which will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Dee Events Center.

Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: