MV-Utah Lady Cougars fall short at state
By Quentin Jodie
RICHFIELD, Utah, February 21, 2013
(Times Photo – Donovan Quintero)
I n a 46-second span the Monument Valley-Utah Lady Cougars nailed three consecutive treys.
Those big baskets, however, were not enough as the Cougars simply ran out of time and fell to Duchesne, 66-57, in the elimination-round of the Utah Class 1A girls state basketball tournament on Feb. 14 at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield, Utah.
"It was too little, too late," Monument Valley coach Jack Seltzer said. "Not enough on the front end."
The Cougars had to settle for those deep shots as they trailed 57-44 with three minutes left in regulation.
Sophomore guard Heidi Nelson put in the first two while senior Jandra Nelson added the third and cut Duchesne's lead down 59-53 with 2:20 to go.
"We were well aware of their three-point shooters," Duchesne coach Jarred Torgerson said. "And we've heard stories about (Heidi Nelson) from coaches down there."
Torgerson said they did a good job of containing her in the first half, but after the break Nelson scored 21 points and finished with a game-best 30 points.
"We started to deny her the ball, but she's a player," he said. "She's got talent. She can step back and shoot or she can put it on the floor. We did what we could."
While the Cougars tried desperately to get back into the game, the Eagles connected on 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch.
"That was the key," Torgerson said. "We kind of struggled from the line this year, but it really helped us today. The kids stepped up."
The net effect of those free throws was fouls for the Cougars. Late in the third, Nelson picked up her fourth infraction while starting point guard Cassidy Augustine did the same with six minutes to go in the next quarter.
Both players eventually fouled out of the game with Augustine scoring six points.
"The fouls hurt us bad because they had to pull back a little bit and not play as aggressive," Seltzer said of Augustine and Nelson. "Our style is to play aggressive and when you get four fouls you have to play with your hands behind your back."
"Getting into foul trouble was one of our biggest problems," Nelson added.
In the first half fouls were not too much of an issue. That was because Duchesne seemed to be a half step ahead of Monument Valley, especially in the second quarter.
After matching Duchesne point-for-point in the opening stanza, the Cougars suddenly found themselves down 11 points midway through the second.
The Eagles opened that quarter by working the ball inside and finished with three baskets, two coming from Breanne Bird.
A layup by Jandra Nelson finally ended a four-minute scoring drought for Monument Valley, but the Eagles pushed their lead to 27-16 with 3:14 to go on a basket by Melissa Robinson.
During that run by Duchesne, Augustine said they got lost on defense, which led to those open looks for the Eagles.
"We didn't call our switches," she said. "We were getting beat all the time."
Nonetheless, the Cougars chipped away at that 11-point deficit and pulled within at 31-25 at the break with Nelson scoring 7 points.
Some of that momentum carried over in the third as Monument Valley pulled within at 39-37 on back-to-back treys by Nelson with 3:19 to go.
Unfortunately that was as close as the Cougars would get the rest of the way as they trailed 45-39 heading into the third.
Earlier in the tournament, the Cougars lost the opening round game to Escalante by a 66-46 count.
"I don't think we came ready for (Wednesday's game)," Seltzer said. "We were not completely ready today. They were still in that mode of, 'If we can't win it all, we are not sure if we want any of it.' And that hurts because in this state to place in the top eight is very respectable."
The Monument Valley coach said his team underestimated Escalante, a team they beat by 34 points during the regular season.
"We met that same team, but we didn't meet their three best players," Seltzer said. "I think the girls just took them too lightly. I told them not to do that, but they took them too lightly and it came back and bit us."
Despite the early exit, Seltzer said the team accomplished one of their goals just by making it to state.
The team's "goal was to make it to state and try to place at state," he said. "They completed that one goal and then the bonus was the region championship. They didn't get their second one, we just came up short."
As for the regional championship, they went a perfect 10-0.
Nelson said that milestone was the highlight of the season.
"The teams we played were pretty good," she said. "We just pushed ourselves and worked twice as hard."
Next year the Cougars will have a different look as they will graduate nine seniors in May. Because of that Seltzer said they are going to be rebuilding next year, but with a pretty good core coming back they have something to work with.
As for the departing seniors, he said, they are leaving a legacy and he hopes his younger girls will continue that tradition.
"It was an honor to coach them," he said of the seniors. "They were the region champions and they made it to state for three years straight and that means the younger girls coming up have to go beyond that goal."