After reaching the state title game a year ago and coming up short, the Riverhawks have been on a mission for the past 12 months.
Friday they punched their ticket for a chance to play for a championship again. In an all-Region 11 semifinal at the 4A Girls Basketball State Tournament, it was all Ridgeline against Green Canyon.
The Riverhawks scored the first seven points of the game and were up double digits most of the game. Ridgeline outscored the Wolves in every quarter on its way to a 74-33 victory at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the campus of Utah State.
“Everyone was excited for the state playoffs,” said Riverhawk Emilee Skinner, who had 21 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and four steals. “... One of my goals going into the game was to rebound the ball, because we didn’t want to give them any second chance points because that’s how they get back into the game. Our whole team is good at rebounding the ball.”
It was the third straight win for Ridgeline (24-0) this season against Green Canyon (16-5). It was the largest margin of the three meetings.
“We just really wanted to get back to where we were last year and bring it home this year,” said Skinner, who was 8 of 12 from the field.
Asked about getting a triple-double in the future, Skinner hesitated and said: “I don’t know.”
“The best part about Emilee is she doesn’t care about her stats,” Ridgeline head coach Ainsli Jenks said. “She just loves to compete. She loves to win. She wants her teammates to play well. She doesn’t want to talk about herself. It’s hard to find a kid like that. She is special.”
While Skinner had a big game, once again she had plenty of help. The Riverhawks finished with 44 rebounds as a team, as well as 16 assists on 29 made field goals and came up with 16 steals.
“We focus on just doing the little things,” Jenks said. “... I’m just really proud of the girls. Rebounding was huge. We also look at assists, so that was good. Making the extra pass is a big deal to us.”
Skinner said she likes a good assist as much as scoring.
“Running in transition helps a lot with assists, and our team does that well,” Skinner said. “We share the ball really well. That’s why we are knocking down shots, because we are open.”
Elise Livingston matched Skinner with 21 points and came up with four steals. Macie Brown chipped in 12 points and grabbed seven boards. Hallee Smith added eight points and dished out four assists.
“I thought Macie Brown got after it rebounding wise,” Jenks said. “... Elise is very dialed in and focused. Literally all these girls love to compete every day. I’m proud of all of them.”
The Wolves were led by Janalynn Blotter with nine points. Marissa Best had eight points and eight rebounds. Maren McKenna finished with six points and six rebounds.
“I’m so proud of our girls,” GC head coach Alexis Clegg said. “It was a tough game and wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but that doesn’t take away from our amazing season. I’m grateful for our team and everything they’ve put in.”
It was the start the Riverhawks were wanting, which means it wasn’t how the Wolves had envisioned the game beginning. Green Canyon used two timeouts barely five minutes into the contest. At that point Ridgeline was up 19-4.
The Wolves used a 7-0 run to end the first quarter and get within 21-13. Green Canyon got as close as 23-17 early in the second quarter when Stella Anhder and Best scored.
The Riverhawks responded with a 12-0 run as four different players scored. Livingston gave top-seeded Ridgeline a 35-17 lead to cap the surge. Staying focused was what Jenks kept emphasizing.
“It’s hard sometimes when you are dealing with any teenager, keeping them focused and dialed in,” Jenks said. “These girls play with a passion for the game. I talked about Emilee, but these other girls love to compete and be together. … Even coming off the bench, the kids keep the level high. That’s really important.”
Soon the Riverhawk students were chanting “Up by 20” as Ridgeline took a 42-21 lead into the break.
The game went to the fourth quarter with the Riverhawks up 57-31.
Green Canyon did not score over the final 6:50 of the game. Ridgeline finished off the victory with a 15-0 run as bench players got more than three minutes of action.
“We talked about a game is 32 minutes, and Green Canyon is a great team, well coached and has great players,” Jenks said. “We know the numbers they can put up. Today, we broke down, let’s go quarter to quarter. What can we do each quarter? We had some lulls, but were able to pick it back up. Having little goals helps us.”
Ridgeline is now on to the final. It will be an all-Region 11 affair as Sky View won in thrilling fashion in the second semifinal of the day, 59-57. The championship will begin at 3 p.m. at the Spectrum.
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