It was a comeback for the ages for a local high school girls basketball team that has faced its share of adversity during the 2022-23 season.
Hannah Radford buried a long jump shot at the buzzer to propel No. 2 Sky View to a heart-stopping 59-57 victory over No. 3 Snow Canyon in the second semifinal game of the 4A state tournament on Friday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the campus of Utah State University. It was the only lead of the entire game for the Bobcats, who trailed by 15 points early in the third quarter.
“The girls just dug deep,” said SV head coach Vanessa Hall, whose team advanced to the 4A state championship game for the second time in a three-season stretch. “The girls dug deep and it came down to clutch free throws. I thought we got them into foul trouble, which helped us a ton, and we were able to knock those down. But, yeah, these girls, we’ve been through a lot this year. We’ve faced a lot of adversity and I think everything has just been building for this moment and these girls, they’re ready. The opportunity came and they took it.”
Indeed, the Bobcats (17-6) made some huge free throws down the stretch, including their final six. Sky View knocked down 18 of 24 freebies, including 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Warriors (18-6) only went 8 of 17 from the charity stripe. Sensational sophomore Olivia Hamlin had a monster game for Snow Canyon, but missed three front ends of one-and-ones in the final 48 seconds of the fourth quarter. Hamlin, who averages 23.4 points an outing, finished with 33 points on 13 of 24 shooting from the field. No. 23, however, missed eight of 12 free throws.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they were unable to slam the door and, to their credit, the Bobcats took advantage. Karlee Allen pulled Sky View even for the first time in the entire contest on an putback with 21 seconds in the final quarter.
Hamlin then missed her final free throw, Sky View got the rebound, called a timeout and inbounded the ball to Radford. The senior picked up a screen from Kourtney Payne and had plenty of room to attempt her game-winning shot, inasmuch as a Snow Canyon defender slipped and fell down.
“It’s unreal,” said Radford, who poured in a career-high 36 points in Thursday’s 60-56 quarterfinal triumph over Mountain Crest and finished with 18 points one day later. “You know, that’s a shot that you always dream about and dream of taking, and I’m glad it went in. But Kourtney set a big-time pick and so the shot was there, and I just took it.”
Simply put, it was a clutch play by Radford and the Bobcats received massive plays from several different athletes during their second-half surge. One of those players was sophomore Claire Fischer, who came off the bench and scored 16 of her career-high 19 points after halftime. No. 33 just missed out on a double-double as she also pulled down a team-best nine rebounds.
Fischer was calm and collected at the charity stripe as she drained 9 of 11 freebies. The sophomore was performing so well the Bobcats started drawing up plays for her. She was one of the two primary options on Sky View’s final possession, Hall said.
“I’m just glad they trust me and have that faith in me, and that they believe that I can do that and fight through because (Snow Canyon) had good defenders, they had good posts, so just that they trusted me to do that meant a lot,” Fischer said.
Another Bobcat who factored into the comeback big time was the speedy Allen. Being the shortest player on the court didn’t prevent the junior from converting on two monumental offensive rebound buckets in the fourth quarter. No. 2 contributed with seven points, eight rebounds and two steals.
“Karlee’s such a tough player and she just goes and, you know, she plays bigger than she is,” said Hall, whose team lost all-state forward Melanie Hiatt to a season-ending knee injury back in January. “Yeah, I felt like we had some great rebounds tonight and there were a couple of clutch ones. And then … it’s one thing to get the rebound, but then to have the state of mind to (think), ‘OK, I’m going to go up and finish it,’ especially when you’re that short among all of the trees, those are just huge plays.”
Addey Merrill sank a pair of late free throws for the Bobcats and chipped in with 11 points and three assists. The senior guard also spearheaded a Sky View offensive attack and only turned the ball over eight times.
Sky View needed a second-half surge because Snow Canyon played very well during the first 16 minutes of action. Case in point: The Warriors went 13 of 25 from the field in the first half, helped limit the Bobcats to 9 of 28 shooting and outrebounded the Smithfield-based team, 20-14. Hamlin, who also came through with a game-high 12 rebounds, buried daggers of 3-pointers at the end of each of the first two quarters.
“That was a big win and at halftime we just said, ‘this is it, we’ve just got to dig deep and give it everything that we have, and every possession counts. We want to make every possession count,’” Radford said.
Natalie Olson added 14 points for Snow Canyon, which had its 13-game winning streak snapped.
Up next for Sky View is a showdown against No. 1 Ridgeline in Saturday afternoon’s title tilt. The undefeated Riverhawks (23-0) swept the regular season series against their rivals to the north by scorelines of 46-32 and 58-30.
“We’re playing a team we know well and so tomorrow we’re going to get into a gym and we’re going to make a gameplan, and then we’re going to have to make some adjustments as we get here, just like we did today,” Hall said. “But yeah, I think it’s just fun. This was what the whole thing was about. We started in November for this moment and it’s finally here.”
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