Junior guard Emma Jones was the beneficiary of some easy baskets during the fourth-quarter run and eventually ended her evening with 14 points after sinking four late free throws to clinch the victory and the championship berth Friday on the Utah State University campus.
"Relax," was what Jones was telling herself as she stepped as she stepped to the line for the game-clinching free throws. "Just go and knock them down because sometimes I struggle from the line and sometimes I don't. I just went down there, made sure to bend my knees and put them in."
After maintaining a lead through most of the opening half, Richfield became the victim of a late run sparked by Brookelyn Hurlbut. After missing her first three looks at the basket, the senior forward sank her next five attempts, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to cap a 10-2 run and claim a 26-22 halftime lead.
Richfield coach Marc Peterson decided to make an in-game change after Hurlbut and sophomore center Jayln Van Dyke continued to overpower the Wildcat defense to start the third quarter.
"Morgan is a tough team to guard," Peterson said. "We had zoned them [in the first half]. We came out in man and found out we couldn't stop some of their girls, so we had to go back to our zone. We've got the No. 1 defense in the state [in 3A] when you look at the stats, and I just reminded the girls that we've got the best defense in the state."
After only only getting two turnovers in the first half, the Wildcats forced the issue in the second half to the tune of six turnovers that led to easy transition offense.
Richfield guard Madisyn Daniels took advantage of the scrambling Morgan defense, hitting 4 of her 9 shots, including three 3-pointers.
"That's my role on this team is to shoot 3s," Daniels said. "I just have to shoot and start to get warmed up and start feeling it and hope that they go in. Some do and some don't, but you've got to pull through and win. If I'm open, I'll shoot it."
Daniels, still an underclassman, said that this tournament run has been a long,time coming for this group of Wildcats and that they're not happy to just be there.
"We've been playing with each other since seventh grade, and we've always just talked about going to state and winning state," Daniels said. "It's good to know that all the hard work is starting to pay off, to finally get there and hopefully pull through and win a state title."
Richfield 48, Morgan 40
• Emma Jones and Madisyn Daniels combine to score 27 of Richfield's 48 points the win.
• Brookelyn Hurlbut leads Morgan with 20 points, six rebounds and an assist.
• Richfield will attempt to win the school's fifth state championship (second in 3A) Saturday against Juan Diego.