WEST VALLEY CITY — Morgan has seen some tight games slip away this season, and in a neck-and-neck battle with No. 1 and Region 9 champion Cedar on Thursday night, the Trojans weren’t about to watch their championship hopes be dashed.
Taking a six-point advantage into the final quarter, Morgan got extremely physical and got to every loose ball to outrebound Cedar 41-28 while tallying 17 second-chance points compared to just four for the Redmen to pick up the 50-43 quarterfinal win.
“That’s what I told them; the key is going to be securing the ball. When you get a lead like that, if we can secure the ball and take care of it with the time in our favor, I knew they were going to need to score,” Morgan head coach Kade Morrell said. “So I just told them, you are two rebounds away from winning this game, and it ended up being exactly two rebounds that won it for us.”
It was far from a smooth ride for the Trojans, however, as they were tied 21-21 at the break and Cedar came out swinging in the second half.
The Redmen opened a momentous 10-1 run in the third quarter and into the fourth to take a 36-35 lead and the momentum with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Then after Cedar’s Courtney Morley scored a huge bucket, got a steal and scored again before drilling a huge 3-pointer to cut her team’s deficit to 45-43 with just over 30 seconds left, the pressure was really on the Trojans.
“We knew Cedar has been playing good basketball and we knew they would be here for a fight the whole time,” said Morrell. “I was just so proud of my girls for sticking with it we lost some close games earlier in the year where we kind of buried our heads, but they kept their heads up the whole time this game.”
It was beyond a familiar situation for Morgan, however it was a completely different outcome this time.
Morgan couldn’t have responded better as its balanced-scoring attack went on to outscore Cedar 16-15 in the final eight minutes as numerous players stepped up big time to secure key rebounds, drill clutch free throws and hit the open player in the final seconds and never let the Redmen find the basket again to seal the seven-point win.
Brooklyn Hurlbut led Morgan with 13 points and eight rebounds, Jessica Carter added 12 points and Lily Henry chipped in nine points and 11 boards as the Morgan bench doubled up Cedar 18-9 in the total team effort.
“I actually told the girls that I’d hate to prepare for us just for one reason: Who do you stop? When one is off a little bit, the other ones pick it up, and that’s why we are a team,” Morell said. “I just want to congratulate Coach Ellison and that Cedar team — he’s a great coach and they’re a great program.”
With the win, Morgan will face No. 1 Carbon in the 3A semifinals Friday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. at the Maverik Center.
“We’ll come and give it all we’ve got,” Morrell said of his semifinal competition. “Carbon got us early in the year — that was our very first game of the season — at our place in overtime, so I just hope the girls come ready to fight tomorrow.”
Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since October 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724