Finding someone to take the scoring load off Maren McKenna was something the Wolves quite frankly needed in their quest for a rematch against Ridgeline.
Enter Janalynn Blotter.
Blotter scored seven points during a game-changing 9-0 Green Canyon surge early in the second quarter and the fourth-seeded Wolves never trailed again route to a 57-41 triumph over No. 5 Dixie in the quarterfinals of the 4A Girls Basketball Championship late Thursday evening at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the campus of Utah State.
McKenna netted all eight of her team's points in the first quarter as Green Canyon fell behind, 12-8. Fortunately for the Wolves, Blotter gave them a much-needed spark and all three of her baskets during the 9-0 run were assisted. The most memorable of those baskets was an and-one play, set up by a dime of a long outlet pass by McKenna.
"It helped a lot, but really I couldn't have done it without those amazing passes and assists," said Blotter, whose team outscored Dixie 23-9 in the second quarter. "But I feel like if our team pushes the ball more than we can get on those big runs."
It was an uneven performance for the Wolves (17-5) offensively --- they scored a combined 40 points in the second and fourth quarters, but only a combined 17 in the first and third --- but they were rock solid defensively, plus they crashed the boards hard. The Wolves held the Flyers (15-9) to 24.3 percent shooting from the field and attempted 30 more field goals than the designated visitors thanks, in large part to, to their impressive 23 offensive rebounds. Green Canyon outrebounded Dixie, 47-37.
"Our defense was kind of lackadaisical I thought in the first quarter, kind of let them have what they wanted, but we got out and ran and I think that's a very big strength of ours is to run ... the floor and to look for open players," GC head coach Alexis Clegg said. "But I definitely think our defense helped our offense."
McKenna nearly outscored Dixie by herself in the first half as the Wolves took a 31-21 lead into the locker room. The senior finished with 19 of her game-high 25 points in the opening half, plus eclipsed the 1,000-point scoring barrier during her varsity career. No. 12 now has 1,006 varsity points during her time at Green Canyon.
It was a well-rounded effort for McKenna, though, as she pulled down 11 rebounds, including five of the offensive variety, and chipped in with three steals.
"She goes out and she battles every single night," Clegg said of McKenna. "You know she's going to try for every board, you know she's going to push the ball and look for her teammates, and score. I mean, she's a scorer, but she played great tonight and her teammates did too. They did a great job of helping her get her shots."
McKenna and Blotter joined forces for 26 of their team's 31 points in the first half but, much to the delight of Clegg, several other players made valuable contributions in the scoring column during the final two quarters. Cambree Tensmeyer came through with eight of her 11 points in the second half, while Nora Wosnik gave the Wolves a huge boost off the bench after halftime. Wosnik knocked down all four of her shots from the field in the second half, including a 3-pointer, and pulled down seven of her 11 rebounds. No. 44 matched McKenna with a game-high five offensive boards.
"Yeah, I think it's important because the goal is to play three games in a row here and you need everybody, you need to keep them fresh, as fresh as you can," Clegg said. "We ended up game (nearly) past 11 o'clock (and) we're the first game tomorrow, so that's a factor in a game. And it's important for them to see the ball go through the net, but it's also important for them to see that their defense is paying off too."
The Flyers got as close as seven points in the second half, but the Wolves were able to extend their advantage to double figures for good courtesy of seven straight points at the end of the third quarter. That run was highlighted by a strong take to the basket by Wosnik and a 26-or-so-foot 3-ball by McKenna.
Dixie was able to stay relatively close to Green Canyon thanks to a big advantage at the free throw line. The Flyers went 22 of 31 from the charity stripe, while the Wolves went 10 of 16. Green Canyon did drain 7 of 10 freebies in the final four minutes of the contest to keep Dixie at bay.
Marissa Best pulled down 10 rebounds for the Wolves, who got four assists apiece from Tensmeyer and Stellar Anhder. Kealah Faumuina finished with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Flyers, who got 10 points and seven boards off the bench from Averi Gledhill. Faumuina averages 17.9 points and 9.6 rebounds an outing.
Up next for Green Canyon is a Friday afternoon semifinal showdown against No. 1 Ridgeline --- just like a year ago. The Riverhawks swept the regular season series with the Wolves, although the first game was very competitive. This will be Green Canyon's third appearance in the round of four in a four-season span.
"I would say we should be proud and lift our heads up for that, but I still think we've got some work to do and I'm looking forward to it," Blotter said.
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