CEDAR CITY — At the end of a quarter of play in the 4A semifinal contest between the Ridgeline RiverHawks and the Uintah Utes Friday afternoon, the RiverHawks seemed well on their way to the state championship game.
After all, the No. 1 seed out of Region 12 had little trouble with the upstart Utes early and leapt out to a 22-12 advantage as a result.
It seemed as though Ridgeline would nonchalantly stroll into the state title game, where they’d face the undefeated favorites in Cedar.
Appearances are often deceiving, however, and that was the case at the America First Event Center on the campus of Southern Utah University.
What appeared a runaway win turned into a tight, hard-fought contest worthy of the semifinals of the state tournament.
Anderson finished with a game-high 17 points, while Livingston and Jenks each added 13.
No one played a bigger role in the win than Livingston. The lone senior on the team, Livingston was the Swiss Army knife that she has so regularly been for the RiverHawks all season. She finished with nine rebounds and assists to go along with her scoring efforts.
“Halle is one of those kids that I feel lucky to have coached,” Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks said. “If you need her to pass, she’ll pass. If you need her to score, she’ll score. If you need her to rebound, she’ll rebound. She is an all-around good player. She’s just one of those kids.”
The RiverHawks turned to Livingston, among others, following a succession of quarters in which they were un-RiverHawklike, a fact Jenks credited to Uintah.
“I thought they did a great job,” Jenks said. “They had a great game plan to slow the game down and they made us shoot some pretty tough shots. We talk about playing from the inside out and they got us to shoot some uncharacteristic shots. Uintah just did a great job defensively trying to stop us from doing what we do. They came ready and are a good team.”
Leading the Utes in said defensive efforts were Foster and Kadi Calder, not to mention Kaitlyn Callahan and Kassidy Callahan.
All told, Uintah’s play in the second and third quarters brought them within 4 points of Ridgeline.
It was at that point that the RiverHawks came together, in large part due to Livingston. The senior took her young teammates under her wing and reminded them that they could pass this, their latest test.
“In the huddles we kept reminding each other that we needed to be mentally tough,” Livingston said. “We knew that stuff like this was going to happen in big games. We just supported each other and had each other’s back.”
“There were some moments, tense moments and they were struggling a little bit,” Jenks added, “but they dialed back in.”1 comment on this story
“It was effort and heart,” Livingston said. “We knew that it was going to be tough and that we would need to finish strong.”
Finish strong they did.
In what proved a complete team effort, the RiverHawks controlled the fourth quarter and turned a close contest into a runaway win.
“It feels awesome,” Livingston said. “We have been working hard.”
Up next for Ridgeline is a championship game showdown with the undefeated Redmen, to be played Saturday at 5 p.m.
“We are excited,” said Jenks. “Ultimately we don’t care who we play; we just want to play ball.”