Cedar City • A year ago, the Richfield Wildcats had the state crown in their sights. They were the class of 2A girls' basketball, steamrolling through the regular season and the playoffs when they suddenly hit a brick wall.
They were upset in the Class 2A quarterfinals.
So when they entered Friday's 2A semifinal against underdog Kanab riding a 19-game win streak, the Wildcats made sure they wouldn't slip on the state's biggest stage.
"We don't know what it's like to play without pressure," said Richfield coach Marc Peterson. "Even when we win games, people expect us to win by more."
Despite a gritty performance from the Kanab Cowgirls, the No. 3 seed out of Region 13, Richfield punched its ticket to the 2A state title game with a hard-fought 50-37 win.
"To get to this game is an achievement for any high school program," Peterson said after his team's 20th straight victory. "They've wanted redemption, and it's got us this far."
However, for 30 minutes Friday, the Cowgirls were right there with the Wildcats.
Kanab cut into the Richfield lead late in the third quarter, getting the deficit down to 40-35 at the start of the fourth, but it was then that Richfield seniors Megan Bean and Mckell Lajeunesse and company helped the Wildcats lock down defensively.
Richfield held Kanab, a heavy 3-point-shooting team, to just two points in the final period.
"There wasn't anybody in that gymnasium that thought we were going to beat them," said Kanab coach Micky Houston. "I think we played them closer than anybody has played them this year."
Richfield was led by Bean, who finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds, and Lajeunesse chipped in 13. Kanab's Kaitlin Glover paced the team, finishing with a game-high 17 points and 8 rebounds, and teammate Whitney Houston scored 12.
"Teenage girls playing their hearts out for Kanab," Peterson said. "They weren't going to lay down for us."
Now, Richfield has more work to do. The Wildcats will face Region 15 rival Emery, a team they defeated twice this season, in Saturday's 2A title game.
Peterson knows how difficult it is to beat a team three times in one season.
"It can be done," he said, "but it's going to be a tough game."
Richfield 50, Kanab 37
O After being upset in last year's quarterfinals, Richfield earns a spot in this season's 2A title game.
• The Cowgirls get within five points to start the fourth quarter but are held to two points the rest of the way.
• Megan Bean leads Richfield with 16 points and Mckell Lajeunesse adds 13. Kaitlin Glover scores a game-high 17 for Kanab.