WEST VALLEY CITY — Having a little speed definitely provides an advantage for any basketball team.
Having a lot of speed, like all four 4-by-100-meter relay sprinters in your lineup, pretty much turns the tide completely in your favor.
At least that is how the Juan Diego girls basketball team feels.
The Soaring Eagle squad, which does in fact include a handful of track athletes, just clinched a spot in the 3A girls championship game with a 66-55 victory over Bear River at the Maverik Center on Friday evening. And they did it by running the floor.
"There's definitely two types of tempo," Archuleta said of the main difference between his starters and their backups. "With Mo at the helm, playing point guard, the Mills turn it up and it's hard for the defense to react because that speed is just second-to-none."
As is often the case, that crew sparked the Soaring Eagle early. Facing a 7-5 deficit just four minutes into the game, Juan Diego flipped a switch that ignited a 21-2 run over the final 3:35 minutes of the first quarter.
Archuleta's team pushed their 26-9 lead after the first quarter to a 20-point margin by halftime and, regardless of who was on the floor, never looked back.
"The backups do a great job of going through our flex sets, they've very deliberate with their actions," Archuleta said of his bench. "We're more shooters in the second group, they shoot a lot more threes. We don't go to the hoop as much, I'm still very happy with the way they play."
In the final quarter of the semifinal game, Bear River produced 17 points and limited Juan Diego to just nine points to narrow the gap, but the Soaring Eagle victory was never in any danger.
Dominique Mills led Juan Diego with 19 points and seven steals while Monique Mills scored 18 points with two 3-pointers and nine rebounds. Curran and Ewoniuk, the team's defensive specialists, combined for seven points and three steals while focusing on defending the top Bear River players.
"(Curran) and Anna, they're our pit bulls," Archuleta said. "They get in everybody's shorts when they play defense. People don't like to play against them, and I don't blame them."
Jenny Bitner led the Bears with 11 points and 10 steals and Rachel Litchford had 10 points while shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor. Alyssa Park totaled nine points and nine boards for Bear River.
With the win, the Soaring Eagle remains perfect for the entire season, entering the 3A title game at 11 a.m. Saturday, where it will play a squad it knows very well: Region 10 foe Morgan.
"We've played each other twice. We played each other four times in the summer. We scrimmage a lot. We know each other very well, so we're not going to have any surprises," Archuleta said. "It's really going to be about defense, minimizing possessions, minimizing second chances, turnovers, and hopefully we're shooting well tomorrow."
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.