It was a roller coaster ride for both the Bobcats and Riverhawks late Monday night at the Sevier Center in Richfield.
When the ride came to a stop, only one team was smiling and jumping up and down with glee after the final seconds ticked off the clock..
Sky View emerged victorious from a wild back-and-forth game against Region 11 rival Ridgeline, 47-43, and advances to the semifinals of the 4A state girls basketball playoffs. The contest featured 16 lead changes, including seven in the final quarter.
“I knew it was back and forth, but I didn’t know it was that much,” said Bobcat head coach Vanessa Hall, when informed of all the lead changes. “... I can’t say enough about how our girls battled tonight. I have so much respect for (Ridgeline head) coach (Ainsli) Jenks and her team. They played such a good game.”
Having split during region play, the sixth-seeded Bobcats (16-6) and third-seeded Riverhawks (15-8) both came into the game with confidence. Sky View had won six of its last seven — now seven of eight — and Ridgeline had won four of its last six.
“The game was a battle,” Jenks said. “It went back and forth all game and ultimately ended in Sky View’s favor. I was extremely proud of the defensive effort of our girls.”
Neither team had a comfortable lead as the battle of Cache Valley schools was tight throughout. With 2:19 minutes to play, the Riverhawks held a 39-38 lead as Macie Brown had sank two free throws to put Ridgeline in front.
The final lead change of the game came 50 seconds later as both teams had empty offensive possessions. Gracie Rigby took a pass from Melanie Hiatt and sank a 3-point shot with 1:29 on the clock. The trey put the Bobcats in front, 41-39, and they would stay there.
The Riverhawks turned the ball over on their next possession and had to start fouling. They only had two fouls at that point in the second half. In a span of five seconds, Ridgeline picked up five fouls.
The Bobcats were up to the task of stepping to the free throw line and facing one-and-one situations. Macy Hellstern was first and made both foul shots.
After a Riverhawk bucket by Paige Dahl, Hannah Radford was fouled and made both free throws. Hiatt was the next Sky View player after a missed shot by Ridgeline. Hiatt followed her teammates example and sank both free throws to give the Bobcats a 47-41 lead with 13.7 seconds to play.
Elise Livingston was fouled on the other end and made both free throws for the Riverhawks, but there was only 3.5 seconds to play. Sky View got the ball in and soon was able to celebrate.
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming in, and that’s what we got,” Hall said. “I thought defensively, we played well tonight, especially down the stretch we had some key defensive stops.”
The Bobcats made all six of their free throws in the final 71 seconds of the game and were 9 of 11 for the game.
“All year we have worked on free throws, and the girls stepped up and hit some big ones in the fourth quarter,” Hall said.
Free throws did loom large at the end. Ridgeline made 10 of 17 for the game.
Radford finished with a game-best 17 points for Sky View. Rigby netted 13 points, while Macy Hellstern added seven points, and Kaytlin Smart chipped in six.
Haley Anderson led Ridgeline with 12 points. Dahle and Sarah Litchford scored eight each, and Brown had seven.
Radford sank a 3-pointer to start the scoring in the opening quarter. Rigby had four points during a 6-0 surge by the Bobcats, who took an 11-7 lead into the second quarter.
Points were even harder to come by over the second eight minutes of the contest. Litchford and Dahle hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Riverhawks up early in the second, but Radford drilled her second trey of the game to swing the lead back Sky View’s way. A rebound bucket by Brown gave Ridgeline a 17-16 lead at the break.
Hellstern sparked a 7-0 run with her first points of the game at the foul line early in the third quarter. Radford had the other five points as the Bobcats went up 25-21 two minutes into the third. But the momentum swung again Ridgeline’s way as the Riverhawks scored six unanswered and took a 32-27 lead into the final quarter.
The first three quarters were just a warm up for a wild finish as the lead went back and forth until Rigby hit the 3-pointer with a minute-and-a-half to go.
“We are so proud of the way the girls fought tonight and didn’t give up when we got down,” Hall said. “It was a great team win.”
The Bobcats have little time to celebrate. They now face No. 2 Desert Hills, who beat Juan Diego 62-57, in the semifinals on Tuesday. The game is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.