MORGAN -- It wasn't as easy as they wanted it to be, but the Morgan Trojans have advanced to next week's state 3-A tournament at the Dee Events Center after a 54-42 first-round win over North Sanpete on Saturday.
Morgan held the Hawks scoreless in the first period, but was not able to turn it into a blowout. The Trojans managed just eight points themselves and were saddled with early foul trouble. Breanna Hurlbut picked up her second foul barely two and a half minutes into the game. Two minutes later, leading scorer McKenzie Schenk was whistled for her second. Both found themselves parked on the bench for most of the remaining time in the half.
Fortunately, the Trojans have a deep bench, which helped keep the Hawks at bay. Alli Tonks, Savanna Brooks, Jessica Carter, Kennedy Gibson and Lizzy Peterson -- all sophomores -- played well as every starter watched from the sideline.
Tonks finished with eight points, Gibson nailed a pair of timely 3-pointers, Brooks hit a long 3 herself and Carter was second on the team with eight rebounds and had three blocked shots.
"We had four starters with two fouls in the first half," Morgan coach Brad Matthews said. "Those girls came in (off the bench) and played hard. We had five sophomores out there playing well."
In the second half, Morgan's starters returned to the court to put the game away. An 11-0 run early in the third quarter put the Trojans up by 16.
"I was proud of all the girls," Matthews said. "The starters came back in the second half and did what they needed to do to get the win. And that's what we've been talking about. Just win the game and move on to the next one."
Schenk had a strong second half and finished with a team-high 12 points and 10 rebounds. Keirsha Dickson added eight points and Shaylie Duncan had seven points and a pair of assists.
North Sanpete's Keisha Jorgensen led all scorers with 16 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
Morgan (19-2) has won 17 straight games, a remarkable achievement considering one of their best all-around players, Rashel Blazzard, has been sitting in street clothes the entire season. Blazzard tore her ACL in the first game of the year.
Hurlbut, who has played a huge role in the Trojans' late-season success, says there may be a silver lining in Blazzard's injury.
"I think through losing players we've actually become stronger," Hurlbut said. "We've had to individually become better and work together as a team. I think relying on each other and playing as a team has really helped us come together.
"We still have some things we need to work on," Hurlbut added. "But I think if we work really hard in practice this week, we'll definitely get better and I think we can take state."
The Trojans will face Desert Hills in the 3-A quarterfinals on Thursday at 9 p.m. The Thunder knocked off Wasatch 62-49 on Saturday.
NOTES: While the Trojans and Hawks were in the locker rooms at halftime, 13-year-old Parker Searle hit the shot of the night. The Morgan resident was randomly selected in a shoot-for-cash contest sponsored by Young Ford of Morgan. As Searle came bounding down the steps toward the court, he stumbled near the bottom and crashed in a heap, appearing to sprain his ankle in the process. He limped onto the court, but chose to try for a half-court shot.
In obvious pain, he took a couple of awkward steps near midcourt and flung the ball toward the hoop. Amazingly, it banked right in, winning himself $150 as the crowd exploded with the loudest cheer of the night.