Third quarter that all switched. Kids did a better job defensively on screens, we rebounded the ball and pushed the ball up the floor, finally moved the ball offensively so Nate (Gottfredson) didn’t have to have somebody right on his back all the time. —Snow Canyon coach James Brown

CEDAR CITY — Snow Canyon did everything it could to avoid a slow start in the early morning 3A quarterfinal game at Southern Utah on Thursday. It practiced early twice this week to simulate the 9:30 start and even spent the night in Cedar City.

“We didn’t want to wake up that extra hour early and let them sleep on the bus and walk off like a piece of crud,” said Snow Canyon coach James Brown. “Back in ‘04-‘05, we drove up and laid an egg and said never again if we have the chance.”

Despite Snow Canyon’s best efforts, it still seemed to walk off the bus feeling like a piece of crud — but only for a half.

After a sluggish first half for both teams, Snow Canyon was superb in the second half, playing a near perfect game to run away with the 54-36 victory despite trailing by one at the half.

Brown admitted it was hard to explain the difference in halves, but said it definitely took his players time to adjust to the college environment.

“Third quarter that all switched. Kids did a better job defensively on screens, we rebounded the ball and pushed the ball up the floor, finally moved the ball offensively so Nate (Gottfredson) didn’t have to have somebody right on his back all the time,” said Brown.

Gottfredson finished with 13 points to lead the Warriors, eight of which came in the second half, with Jacob Frei adding 12.

As effortless as things looked in the second half, early on Snow Canyon found itself in a surprising dogfight against a Richfield team that lost its starting point guard to an ACL injury two weeks ago.

It didn’t take long for the Warriors to burst Richfield’s upset bid in the second half. They scored the first 11 points of the second half aided by back-to-back 3-point plays by Tanner Sampson and Warner Rigby, eventually stretching the lead to 37-25 at the end of the third.

Things snowballed even more out of control in the fourth as Snow Canyon eventually built a 23-point lead before coach Brown cleared his bench.

Snow Canyon’s full-court press noticeably wore out Richfield in the second half as it only made 5-of-16 field goals.

“I was proud ’cause we’re not a team that blows people out. For some reason we kind of just stay close,” said Brown. “I was proud they were conscientious enough to finish well and not make a lot of mistakes, extend the lead.”

With the victory, Snow Canyon advances to Friday’s 3A semifinals and will face the Juan Diego/Cedar winner at 5:50 p.m.

Junior Brandon Willardson led Richfield with 14 points, but only four in the second half as Snow Canyon did a much better job clamping down defensively.