ST. GEORGE — Desert Hills junior Katelyn Philips scored 12 of the Thunder’s final 14 points Thursday to help erase a six-point deficit and lead her team to a crucial Region 9 win, 44-39, against visiting Snow Canyon.
Over the last 3:30 of the game, Philips hit a layup and 10 of 12 free throws, including two to clinch the game with 8 seconds left after the Warriors had narrowed the gap to one possession, trailing 42-39.
The Region 9 race is nearing the home stretch and a loss would have put Desert Hills three games behind the leaders with just four to play.
As it stands now, Cedar and Pine View are tied at the top with 6-2 records, Hurricane, after a bye Thursday, is 4-3, followed by the Thunder and Warriors, both at 4-4. Dixie (2-5) and Canyon View (1-7) round out the region.
Other than the Thunder’s 19-point fourth quarter, it was a relatively low-scoring game, but Desert Hills coach Ron Denos said that was mostly by design.
“It was such a big game, everybody was trying to make sure we got good looks at the basket. I think that played into it,” he said. “We’ve really been preaching to our girls to have a little more patience and so I think that helped us tonight. They executed some plays when we needed it.”
It was a tightly contested game throughout; neither team led by more than six points and both had their biggest leads in the fourth quarter.
Snow Canyon led 28-25 going into the final frame, but the Warriors’ Natalie Gunn doubled that lead with a three-point shot from the corner just 39 seconds in.
Philips countered with a drive through the lane for a bucket and a foul, which she converted. She led all scorers in the game with 16 points. After Kellie Nance added a couple of free throws, the Thunder were within one point, at 31-30.
Snow Canyon, however, slowly pulled away over the next few minutes. Tylei Jensen made 1 of 2 from the line and Sammi Johnston hit from inside the lane off a sweet feed from Allie Parr. Johnston added a couple of free throws to put the Warriors up 36-30 with under 4 minutes left in the game.
Jensen, one of the top scorers in the region, was held to 8 points on just two field goals – a three-pointer and a deuce – and 3 of 4 from the line as the Thunder defense was able to largely smother her quick drives into the lane. Hallie Remund led the way for Snow Canyon with 11 points, including a three.
Desert Hills defenders were stingy down the stretch as well, holding the Warriors to just one field goal over the final 4:34 of the game.
Although the Thunder had an advantage at the free throw line – they hit 17 of 25 versus the Warriors’ 7 of 10 – Denos gave credit to the defense, especially a trap that disrupted Snow Canyon and forced a few turnovers.
“I think us putting a little bit of pressure on them at the end of the game made a difference,” he said.
“We tried to go man most of the game, but I think the girls just wanted it a little bit and put pressure on them and got the job done. It’s just a trap we go on, just a little softer than our normal trap, so just trying to slow them down a little is basically what we’re looking to do.”
Snow Canyon hosts Cedar on Thursday, while Desert Hills has a bye before returning to action Feb. 6 at Pine View.
In other Region 9 action Tuesday, Pine View and Cedar both won.
Region 9 standings
Cedar 6-2, 13-4
Pine View 6-2, 11-3
Hurricane 4-3, 9-8
Snow Canyon 4-4, 8-10
Desert Hills 4-4, 4-12
Dixie 2-5, 8-11
Canyon View 1-7, 4-14
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