The Bulldogs built a 25-14 lead at intermission behind strong play in the interior, thanks greatly to outsizing Box Elder in the paint, and by contesting every shot the Bees attempted. Those two characteristics dominating on the inside and lockdown defense have been key to the program's late-season surge and correlated with the 10-game winning streak.
"I think after we beat Skyline [in the regular season], we thought we had a really good chance," said Austin, who finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. "We put our heads to the dirt and kept it going. It was non-stop. Work, work, work. We're here for a reason."
Box Elder rallied, steadily climbing closer until the Bees pulled to within three points, 30-27, on consecutive 3-pointers with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Keslee Stevenson then hit another 3-pointer for the Bees after two Bulldog free throws to end the third quarter, 32-30, in favor of Judge.
But behind Austin, particularly on a three-point play after she muscled up a layup to increase the lead back to six, the Bulldogs continued to keep the Bees at bay. Defensively, the Bulldogs held Box Elder to four points in the final eight minutes.
Judge coach Paul Shiramizu said the difference was the 2-3 zone and how his players executed it. The Bulldogs never have won a title in girls' basketball.
Judge Memorial 45, Box Elder 34
R Judge Memorial uses defense to clinch appearance in state championship.
• Vanessa Austin finishes with 14 points and 15 rebounds.