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David Larson, Photo courtesy
Cedar and Ridgeline compete in the 4A girls basketball state championship at Southern Utah University on Saturday.

CEDAR CITY — For almost the entire first half of Saturday night’s 4A girls state championship game, the Cedar Redmen — the undefeated title favorites — looked a shell of themselves.

Known for hot, often game-deciding starts, the Redmen suffered one of their worst openings to a game this season at the America First Event Center on the campus of Southern Utah University.

The state title, a potential first in program history, appeared in doubt for the first time all year.

The slow start was so unusual, in fact, that Cedar trailed after the first quarter, something which had happened on only two other occasions the entire season.

There were a multitude of reasons for the slow start.

The Ridgeline RiverHawks' stout defensive play was one — Ridgeline boasted the sixth-best scoring defense in the classification this season — as were championship game nerves.

“We came out scared,” junior guard Mayci Torgerson said. “We were nervous.”

There was also the fact that Redmen simply couldn’t make shots.

“We shot 5 for 30 (in the first half) and we got great shots,” Cedar head coach Corry Nielsen said. “We told (the girls) to keep doing it and they would fall in.”

Keep playing they did, and as Nielsen predicted the shots began to fall.

First it was Japrix Weaver and Logann Laws. Then Samantha Johnston and Torgerson got into the act.

By the time the final whistle sounded, Cedar looked like the team it had all season.

More importantly, the Redmen were state champs.

Led by Torgerson, who finished with a team-high 18 points, as well as Weaver (11 points) and Laws (8 points), Cedar defeated Ridgeline 53-40.

The RiverHawks were paced by senior Halle Livingston, who finished with 18 points. Haley Anderson added 14 in a losing effort.

The win secured a perfect 26-0 season for Cedar, not to mention the first state title in the girls basketball program’s history.

“I can’t describe this. It has been so much fun,” Weaver said. “This was the best season ever, with the greatest teammates and the greatest coaches ever. Just the best season.”

“I don’t think it has sunk in yet, but it is so awesome,” Torgerson added. “I can’t put it into words.”

Making the win even sweeter? The makeup of the team itself.

“This is the funnest team I have ever played on,” Torgerson said, a notable statement considering she was an integral part of North Sevier High School’s magical 2017 state title run.

“I love my teammates to death,” she continued. “I just love this team so much and I am so grateful that I have been able to be a part of it this year.”

Torgerson and Johnston both moved to Cedar this year, something their teammates are immensely grateful for, state title win or no.

“Sam and Macyi moved in and that was great,” Weaver said. “We’ve had a ton of fun together, and we do things as a team outside of sports.”

More importantly, at least for Saturday’s purposes, Torgerson and Johnston gave the Redmen the most versatile team in 4A — particularly on defense.

Starting in the third quarter, the Redmen showcased that type of defensive play, the very type that has characterized the team all season, replete with steals and deflections.

“I think at halftime we decided that if we were going to win this game we needed to relax and play the way we can,” Torgerson said. “When we play how we can we get tons of steals and deflections. That is what leads to our offense.”

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“We knew that if we played defense the offense would come,” Weaver added. “Defense is where you win ball games. You get turnovers and the other team will get flustered. The offense will follow.”

The Redmen outscored the RiverHawks by six points in both the third and fourth quarters and by the end proved themselves the unequivocal best the classification had to offer, not to mention the greatest team in school history.

“Just a fantastic job by the girls,” Nielsen said. “I am so proud of them.”

Deseret News 4A Girls All-Tournament Team

MVP — Mayci Torgerson, Cedar

Haley Anderson, Ridgeline

Kaitlyn Callahan, Uintah

Halle Livingston, Ridgeline

Macie Warren, Lehi

Japrix Weaver, Cedar