BOUNTIFUL — Time after time, Bountiful fouled Woods Cross down the stretch in a desperate attempt to stay in the game. The Wildcats, though, wouldn't cooperate, hitting 12-of-16 free throws to seal the 55-42 road win over their rival.
"That was the most intense game I've ever played in," Woods Cross' Natalie Parson said. "Hopefully we can keep up this momentum into the state tournament."
After a first quarter that saw the teams combine for only 10 points, it was Woods Cross that turned up the heat. Fueled by six straight points from Parson, the Wildcats ended the first half on a 15-2 run and took a 24-11 lead into the break.
The inability of Taylor Boroson, Bountiful's leading scorer, to find her shooting touch was a major reason the Braves struggled early on. Boroson entered the contest averaging more than 16 points per game, but missed all of her field goal attempts in the first half. She made only 1-of-5 free throws for a grand total of one point in the first 16 minutes of play.
"Our defense really stepped up today," Woods Cross coach Craig Geis said. "We've made some pretty significant changes the last few weeks, switching from a full-court press to a half-court defense, and I think it's paying off."
The second half, though, was a different story. Boroson got involved quickly with two quick layups, while Abby Wilson hit two 3-pointers to pull the Braves within eight. The Braves attacked the rim with newfound zeal after consistently missing outside shots in the first half.
Meanwhile, Woods Cross' Aarika Andersen took it upon herself to preserve the Wildcats' lead. The senior point guard made two threes and finished the quarter with eight points and two steals.
Andersen, though, picked up her fourth foul less than 20 seconds into the fourth quarter and was forced to the bench. Bountiful quickly went on an 8-0 run before the free-throw competition started. Unable to force any quick turnovers, the Braves resorted to fouling every time down the court.
Parson (6-for-9) and Pina Auvaa (5-for-6) proceeded to ice the game down the stretch with clutch free throws.
"Every night at practice we shoot at least 20 minutes of free throws," Geis said. "The hope is that it will pay off down the road, and tonight it did. The girls did really well out there."
Parson finished with 17 points to lead the Wildcats, while Andersen added 13. Emily Howey provided a tough interior presence in the win, scoring all 11 of her points from close range.
Boroson finished with 17 points after hitting two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Abby Wilson had 10 for the Braves.
The win created a logjam in the Region 6 standings, with Woods Cross (10-9, 9-2) and Bountiful (17-2, 9-2) now tied for second place behind Olympus. The Braves close their regular season against the Titans on Friday night, while the Wildcats will take on Highland.