Cedar City • They didn’t celebrate until the horn sounded.
But once it did, Richfield seniors Megan Bean and McKell Lajeunesse found each other. Lajeunesse jumped into the arms of Bean, throwing a No. 1 into the air at Centrum Arena, signifying this year’s Wildcats had finally done what they set out to do.
After being eliminated early in last year’s 2A tournament, top-seeded Richfield used it as motivation heading into this season.
And it worked.
In the end, the Wildcats defeated Emery 41-27 in the 2A state championship game Saturday afternoon, ending their 2012-13 season on a 21-game win streak.
“We came out this year with fire,” said Lajeunesse, who scored 12 points. “There’s eight seniors on this team, and every single one of us promised each other we were going to try our hardest after what happened last year.”
They kept their promise.
For the third time in four years, Richfield was crowned state champion.
“From Day 1 in the summer, we knew we were going to come after this,” said Richfield coach Marc Peterson, cradling the 2A trophy.
Throughout their season, the Wildcats focused on defense, and Saturday’s handcuffing of the Spartans was proof of how much defensive prowess this year’s Richfield team had.
The Spartans didn’t eclipse the double-digit scoring mark in one quarter. They shot 25 percent in the game, which was the Wildcats’ plan coming in. Peterson had said in order for his team to win, the Wildcats would have to slow down the backcourt of Shelby Allred, Kelsie Cox and Ashlynn Allred.
Those three combined to score 14 points.
“When it comes down to it,” said Bean, who finished with a game-high 14 points and seven rebounds, “defense is what matters.”
The Richfield defense forced 30 Emery turnovers and used a steady diet of Bean’s low-post scoring abilities as well as its outside shooting to win the title. Members of the team sacrificed their bodies, diving for loose balls, fending off inquiring defenders and hustling for 32 consecutive minutes.
This Richfield team wanted it.
“These girls have had pressure on them all through high school,” Peterson said.
They responded on the biggest of stages.
Afterward, Bean was asked to reminisce on last year’s 2A quarterfinal loss as she played with her piece of championship net she’d cut down minutes before.
“We got pushed to our limit this year,” she said. “Peterson made us give everything we had.”
The Wildcats did, earning yet another state championship to plant inside the halls of Richfield High School.
Richfield 41, Emery 27
R The Wildcats hold the Spartans to 25 percent shooting.