Football

Utah high school girls basketball 3A championship results

CEDAR CITY — After two losses to a bitter rival in the regular season, the Morgan Trojans finally served revenge in the best way.

The Trojans outfought and outshot their rival, the No. 1 Grantsville Cowboys, in a tense 70-66 win to take home the 3A girls basketball state championship. It was Morgan’s second title in three years and the second for Morgan coach Sterling Mack.

“A big part of it was revenge,” junior forward Liv Jaffa said. “We lost to them twice in the regular season, so this was a really sweet win when it really mattered.”

The Trojans had to play a good portion of the final stretch without their best player, junior forward Liv Jaffa, who had four fouls in the third quarter and fouled out in the fourth. Mack and Jaffa both had to trust the remaining players to close out a game that had a huge late momentum shift for the Cowboys.

“It’s been trust since tryouts, since day one,” Mack said. “I came to Morgan five years ago, and the first class I taught in middle was this senior group. I told them I loved them from the first day I met them, and I still mean that.”

Jaffa and senior Elena Birkeland both scored 20 points for Morgan to lead all scorers, while senior Amaya Rogers added 17 points on 8-12 shooting.

Grantsville senior Baylee Lowder led the Cowboys in the loss with 19 points, while senior McKenzie Allen scored 15 points and sophomore Kodee Williams scored 12 points.

The same suffocating defense that Grantsville used to shut down Carbon in the semifinals, the Cowboys used from the tipoff against Morgan. For a few possessions, it worked perfectly as they got out to a 5-0 lead.

Inter-region familiarity brought quick adjustment for the Trojans, who eventually broke the press and began to trade shots with Grantsville. A 7-2 run with two quick jumpers got Morgan out to an 11-9 lead, prompting a timeout call by the Cowboys. Morgan pushed the advantage with physical play on offense that drew several fouls on the Cowboys, and the Trojans led at the end of the first quarter, 13-11.

By midway through the second quarter, it appeared the tables had turned on the Cowboys, as Morgan became the aggressor on fastbreaks, with Rogers collecting an easy layup ahead of the defense for a 21-16 lead.

Jaffa couldn’t be stopped by the Cowboys throughout the first half, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive) and three blocks. She blocked a Grantsville layup late in the first half so hard that the slapping noise rang through the America First Events Center. Morgan’s momentum continued to grow stronger as the Trojans took a 33-25 lead into halftime.

Rogers led the Trojans in first half scoring with 12 points on 6-7 shooting. All of Roger’s field goals came from the left side of the court with little pressure as Grantsville’s defense tried a little too hard to trap Birkeland on the right side.

Senior Mckenzie Allen led the Cowboys at halftime with 6 points.

Jaffa scored two quick baskets in the third quarter to push the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 14 points, 41-27, before the biggest shift in the game happened: her fourth foul. With over five minutes left in the third quarter, Morgan was forced to send its best player to the bench.

It was the moment the Cowboys had been waiting for.

Grantsville immediately exploited the change in personnel and attacked the hoop vigorously while also reapplying their full-court press to erupt for a 14-0 game-tying run. The Cowboys later took the lead on a layup by Lowder, 47-46.

With Morgan clinging to a 50-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Trojans still had to find a way to survive without Jaffa. They got some help in that regard by forcing Lowder into a tough spot with her fourth foul on two quick and somewhat contestable blocking calls at halfcourt.

“I knew that we had fast enough guards,” Jaffa said. “If we could just pressure them enough to get the ball back, we’d be good.”

It all came down to who was left by the game’s end. Both Brynlee Castagno and Thomas fouled out for the Cowboys, but a huge and-1 layup by Williams with under a minute to go finally put Jaffa on the bench for good. Williams tied the game with the free throw, 64-64.

A free throw by Rogers gave Morgan a 1-point lead, then Birkeland came up with the biggest play of the game, jumping in front of a short pass for the steal and outracing the defense for a layup to take a 67-64 lead.

After a contest of free throws in the final seconds, the celebration was on for the Trojans, as Mack went flying into the arms of his assistant coaches.

3A All-Tournament Team

MVP — Liv Jaffa, Jr. — MorganMcKenzie Allen — Sr. — GrantsvilleBaylee Lowder — So. — GrantsvilleElena Birkeland — Sr. — MorganAmaya Rogers — Sr. — MorganNicole Willardson — Sr. — Richfield

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