;I think we didn't shoot well early on because we had waited all day to play and we were just so excited. But we finally calmed down and realized, 'We got this. —Morgan's Rashel Blazzard
CEDAR CITY — The mark of a good team is the ability to find a way to win when things don't go as planned. Much like Desert Hills earlier in the day couldn't find its usual rhythm against Juab, Morgan's normally dependable 3-point shot was missing during the first half of the Trojans' late 3A tournament game against Stansbury Thursday.
Rather than panic, however, the Trojans turned up the defensive intensity and pounded the ball in the post on their way to a convincing 61-24 win in the semifinals of the 3A girls basketball tournament at SUU.
"I think we didn't shoot well early on because we had waited all day to play and we were just so excited," said Morgan's Rashel Blazzard. "But we finally calmed down and realized, 'We got this.'"
After a Jessica Carter 3-pointer gave Morgan an early 3-0 lead in the first minute of the game, Morgan went on a two-minute scoreless streak, which, for the Trojans, is an eternity. Stansbury's defense was scrappy, and Morgan's shots weren't dropping.
Stansbury also controlled the tempo of the game in the first four minutes. Employing a strategy of deliberateness, the Stallions walked the ball up the floor, ran a three-man weave at the top of the key, and attempted to work the ball into the post.
However, like a good team will, Morgan found other ways to up the tempo of the game.
"When the shots aren't falling, we've got girls that can crash the boards and score inside," said Morgan coach Brad Matthews. "We've really tried to score from the inside out."
Morgan center Lisa VanCampen broke her team's scoreless streak by snagging an offensive rebound and scoring, then she did it again later in the period. This seemed to get things rolling for the Trojans. With its swarming defense producing easy transition baskets, and the bigs working hard inside, Morgan forged a lead of 18-2 by the end of the period.
The onslaught continued in the second period as VanCampen, Carter and Aubrey Saunders controlled the boards and the interior, while Blazzard, Alli Tonks, Brea Hurlbut and Savanna Brooks applied pressure on defense. As a result, the Trojans moved out to a 36-10 lead by halftime.
The Trojans are well-known for their full-court pressure, but on Thursday the Stallions were able to break that press more often than most teams. Again, Morgan found a way to shut the Stallions down by amping up the defensive intensity in the half court. The Trojans forced numerous turnovers on Stansbury's side of the court, which led to easy baskets for Morgan at the other end.
"Our half-court 'D' was killing it," said VanCampen. "Offensively, I think we were just getting the jitters out, but collectively we played really well."
Morgan was led by Blazzard's 17 points and six steals. VanCampen chipped in 11 points and 11 boards with three blocks. Also contributing for Morgan was Brooks with five assists, Carter with six boards and Hurlbut with nine points. Kallie Stewart and Madie Alvey each pitched in six points for Stansbury.
Next up for Morgan is North Sanpete, which defeated Hurricane by a score of 48-37 earlier Thursday.
"North Sanpete did a pretty good job today," said Matthews. "You can tell they are in it to win it. They are quick and they've got one of the best scorers in the state. We are going to have to play hard."
The Hawks face the Trojans Friday at 4:15 p.m.
Chris is a graduate of the University of Utah and Santa Clara Law School and practices law in Heber, is a father of four, an avid fly-fisherman, and announcer of many Morgan High School sports events. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.