All or nothing, that’s how Dixie’s Elizabeth Thompson described her team’s mentality heading into the fourth quarter against Cedar in the 3A girls basketball semifinals.
The mindset certainly paid off as the Flyers battled back from an eight-point deficit to upend the Reds 33-31 Friday at Weber State’s Dee Events Center.
Dixie, the fourth seed out of Region 9, will face Desert Hills in the championship game today at 5 p.m.
Caroline Lantor (10 points, 10 rebounds), who joined Dixie this season after transferring from Manzano High School in Albuquerque, was the difference maker down the stretch. The 5-foot-10 senior’s dribble-drive layup over Alainey Carter gave the Flyers the lead, 30-29, with two minutes to play.
Lantor also collected a pivotal board after Tara Shipp’s (six points, 10 rebounds) lay-in attempt with time winding down fell short for the Reds.
“Caroline has been absolutely critical for us,” said Dixie coach Ken Robinson. “She’s not a team captain, but she’s our stability. We know we can rely on her. She’s a strong player both mentally and physically.”
Of course, Lantor had plenty of help from her teammates.
Thompson scored six points, including a huge layup off a pass from Kelsey McCann (11 points, 10 rebounds) with 50 seconds to go that pushed the Flyers’ lead to 32-29.
Shipp tried to respond with a 3-pointer, but her shot once again fell short. Madison Alger (seven points) collected the board for Cedar and put in the bucket to close the gap to one.
Liz Empey missed a free throw for Dixie, which gave Cedar possession with 14 seconds left on the clock.
Shipp tried to take command once more. Driving hard into the lane, she put the ball up over several defenders, but her shot hit the front of the iron. Lantor collected the rebound, drew a foul and then pumped her fist in celebration.
The game wasn’t over just yet.
Lantor made the first free throw, but missed the second giving the Reds one last opportunity with 1.7 seconds remaining in the game.
Courtney Morley’s inbounds pass — made from full court — couldn’t connect, though, and the ball sailed out of bounds.
Just like that, Dixie earned a place in the championship game — the first time the Flyers have made it to the final day since 2007.
“We’re so close now,” Lantor said. “I’m so glad I moved here.”
Ironically, in the previous two meetings vs. Cedar, the Flyers held the lead through much of the game but couldn’t finish down the stretch. The Reds claimed both wins by margins of four and six points, respectively.
This time, the Flyers started slow and trailed 10-5 after the first quarter.
Shipp only had two points before sustaining an injury while running down a loose ball and colliding with Lantor at the end of the opening period. She was helped off the court where she remained for four long minutes.
The girls in blue outscored Cedar 6-3 during Shipp’s absence and cut the lead to three, 13-11. But the Southern Utah star returned and led the Lady Reds on a 7-0 run and a 19-14 lead heading into the break.
“Coach told us to get it together and play our game,” Thompson said. “We had to stop playing stagnant defense and play harder on offense.”
Thompson and her teammates followed their coach’s advice. Slowly, the Flyers chipped away at the deficit crawling within two points at the end of the third.
With four minutes on the clock, Lantor made a pair of free throws after driving hard into the lane and then McCann picked apart the zone defense for a deuce moments later that tied the game at 28.
Cedar’s offense stalled, managing just five points in the final period. Still, the Reds led by one with two minutes to go, but couldn’t make the pivotal shots down the stretch.
The Lady Reds face Snow Canyon in the third-place round today at 1:20 p.m.