CEDAR CITY — Throughout most of the first half of Saturday’s 3A championship game, Snow Canyon seemed to be playing in slow motion.
With leading scorer Madison Mooring dealing with the flu and laboring up and down the court, collectively the Warriors were having a hard timing matching Cedar’s energy. They always stayed within striking distance, though.
Once adrenaline kicked in after halftime the Warriors made their move in the rubber match with region rival Cedar.
Down four with under two minutes remaining, Snow Canyon closed the game on a 10-2 run thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting to rally past Cedar for the 58-54 victory and the school’s first state championship since 2012.
“We just kept trudging through it. We just kept staying up even though we’d get behind. We just kept our hearts in there and kept pushing,” said Snow Canyon’s Shaylee Reed, who scored 27 points and was named Deseret News tournament MVP.
She made 7 of 9 field goals and 13 of 15 free throws in a dominant display, and no free throws were more important than her last two with 6.1 seconds remaining that put the Warriors up 58-54.
“I was praying,” said Reed recounting her poise at the charity stripe.
Those free throws capped a clinical final five minutes for Snow Canyon, which scored on nine of its last 10 trips down court.
“At times in games it’s not about X's and O's it’s about the players making plays and the girls doing the things that they’ve been taught and trusting what they’ve been taught. And trusting each other and making things happen,” said Snow Canyon coach Daniel Roden.
Mooring made one of the biggest plays of the game converting a three-point play with 3:46 remaining to put Snow Canyon ahead 47-44, its first lead since the first quarter.
Cedar’s Courtney Morley responded with a three-point play of her own, part of a 6-0 run that helped Cedar regain the 50-47 lead with 2:54 left.
A minute later, Morley stretched Cedar’s lead to 52-48 on another layup — finishing with 17 points — but Snow Canyon started to take over after that.
Reed cut the lead to 52-50 with a jumper, and then with 1:05 remaining Nikenna Durante buried a baseline 3-pointer putting the Warriors ahead for good 53-52.
Snow Canyon got a defensive stop, and then Mooring buried two free throws to extend the lead to 55-52.
By that point in the game, Mooring was on running on fumes, but amped with plenty of adrenaline too.
“This was my last game so I knew that whatever I had left in my body I had get it out and fight through that,” said Mooring, who finished with 16 points.
Cedar’s Carley Davis hit a big basket with 25 seconds left to trim Snow Canyon’s lead to 55-54, and Mooring was quickly fouled again, making one of two.
With a chance to tie, Cedar turned the ball over on a pass out of bounds with only less then 10 seconds remaining. Reed quickly iced the game with two free throws.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year hitting our free throws when it counted,” said Mooring.
Snow Canyon finished the game making 19 of 24 free throws, clutch play that was indicative of the entire second half once urgency kicked in.
“Our girls just kept with it. They trust each other, they trust our system. And they just believed things are going to happen,” said Roden.
At the end of the day, Reed and Mooring made things happen in the second half, and the seniors end their careers on a positive note.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org