By Kurt Johnson
Photo by Shane Marshall
The Cedar High girls basketball team hopes it’s all building to an exciting finish that has them holding the state championship trophy. Last year, the Redmen were in the 3A final four without a senior on the roster and it was their second straight run that deep into the state tournament. Now experienced, they want to finish.
John Elison is in his eighth season on the Cedar bench and he has overseen a remarkable transformation.
“The year before we got here, the girls went three wins all year and then my first year we went two wins that year,” Elison said. “We were kind of the bottom of the barrel when we started, and we’ve kind of progressed each year. It’s been a good ride.”
The 2014-2015 team arrives at the state tournament off of a perfect Region 9 season. After some early season losses, the Redmen are hot at tourney time.
“Last year we were in the final four with no seniors,” Elison said. “I was kind of hoping we could come back and make a splash this year. We didn’t lose anybody. The girls are on a roll, they’re playing well and it’s been fun to see. Being undefeated in region is obviously a surprise. In Region 9, that’s not a very common thing so we’re enjoying that.”
The Redmen are led by junior point guard Courtney Morley, their leader in pretty much every statistical category. While she is the leading scorer, Morley is anything but a shoot-first player.
“I love having everyone scoring, having that feeling that everyone’s shooting the ball,” Morley said. “I love passing the ball. That’s always my biggest thing.”
The problem for opponents is that Morley is bigger than you prototypical point guard and she is also an outstanding rebounder. And she sees her teammates as similarly talented in multiple skills.
“I can play every position, but they call me a point because I handle the ball,” Morley said. “I’m the type of person who is always going to where the ball is. I love rebounding, that’s one of my strengths, big time.
“There are so many talents that we have out there. Everybody on our team can dribble the ball. Our team is just like that. Everybody can score, everyone can rebound. That’s why we’re so great.”
Among the other players who do a lot of different things for Cedar are Javlyn Weaver and Shana Foley. Elison calls Weaver his shutdown defensive specialist and he loves Foley’s intimidating presence in the paint.
The keys for Cedar postseason success are the same things that led to its amazing regular-season run. That means it starts on defense.
“It has to be working hard in practice and focusing on our defense,” Morley said. “I think we could do better on offense, but we are a defensive team and our team on defense is just amazing.”
In that, Morley is essentially quoting her head coach.
“You win championships by playing defense and the offense will come,” Elison said. “The other thing is playing as a team and keeping the chemistry together and everybody understanding what they need to do to be successful. These girls have done a really good job this year of just playing together and just uplifting each other.”