We made it (to state) last year, but now it’s a habit. We have one of the toughest regions and it prepared us well. —Northridge coach Chris Smith
TAYLORSVILLE — The Northridge Knights made the most of their second trip to the state tournament in the last 15 years.
The Knights dropped their opener to perennial power Bingham last season but opened postseason play Tuesday afternoon like they belonged at the 6A girls tourney and bounced Cyprus 50-28.
Abigail Neff scored 14 points and Brooklyn Perkins had 12 and coach Chris Smith made sure each member of the Knights’ 18-player roster got at least a minute on the floor at Salt Lake Community College.
“You’ve got to do it when you can,” Smith said. “We made it (to state) last year, but now it’s a habit. We have one of the toughest regions and it prepared us well.”
Northridge improved to 16-5 overall after a third-place finish in Region 1. The Knights advanced to second-round play Thursday, where they will get another chance at Bingham at 4:10 p.m. Cyprus, the second seed from Region 2, finished its year with a 7-14 mark.
Smith noted the Knights benefited from some early good fortune. Only a couple of minutes into the game, Neff, Perkins, Jennica Hess and Lydia Mashburn each connected on three-pointers as Northridge built an 18-3 lead. Two of those shots banked in off the backboard, drawing smiles and high-fives from almost every Northridge player.
“We’ll take ‘em,” Smith said. “But the problem with that is once you start making them, you want to shoot more. You can shoot your way into a game and shoot yourself out.”
“We wanted them to shoot from out there,” said Cyprus coach Chad Stevens. “When they banked in those two threes, though, I kind of felt like it wasn’t going to be our night.”
With the huge first-quarter lead, the Knights didn’t shoot themselves out, primarily because Cyprus was never able to shoot itself into the game. The Pirates made less than 19 percent of their shots, including just one beyond the 3-point arc.
“It may have been playing in this gym or just the excitement of being here; I don’t know,” said Stevens. “It was our goal in the preseason to make it here and we accomplished that. We just need to build on it.”
Cyprus was limited by Northridge’s defense, which employed a box-and-one to harass the Pirates’ top scorer, Ashley Flater, who still led her team with 13 points and eight rebounds. The Pirates’ Abby Garreaud was also hampered with a foot injury and had limited minutes.
Cyprus outrebounded Northridge 42-33, but that was not enough to make up for their poor shooting.
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise, Idaho, and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high-school sports articles for the Deseret News.