2A Girls: Murch sisters power Needles to region title game

Friday’s Class 2A Southern Region girls basketball semifinal was a rematch of last year’s state championship. And it went about the same way.

Needles beat Democracy Prep, convincingly.

Sisters Paige and Preslee Murch scored 18 points apiece to lift the Mustangs to a 58-42 win at Del Sol on Friday evening, and a spot in the Southern championship game for the fourth time in five years.

Needles beat Democracy Prep 64-54 in last year’s state title game, but lost twice to the Blue Knights in the regular season. The Mustangs (21-9) entered as a No. 3 seed, and, with the win, guaranteed an opportunity to defend their state championship game in Reno next week.

They got there by relying on the Murch sisters. Paige and Preslee were Needles’ best players Friday. Marie Mills added 14 points, no other Needles player scored more than six points.

Paige also had 10 rebounds and four assists, and Preslee hit both of the Mustangs’ 3-pointers.

“It’s exciting because we lost to them both times in league, and we knew coming what we needed to do and we executed it today, and I’m so proud of this team,” Paige said.

Playing against Democracy Prep (16-6) means playing against Class 2A’s best player in Sharmayne Finley. And though she finished with 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven steals, the Mustangs held her to just eight points in the first half.

Finley scored 14 points in the fourth quarter once Needles had a sizable lead, and shot 12 of 36 from the field, and 4 of 19 from 3-point range.

“She pretty much scores at will, and I thought we did a great job against her today,” Needles coach Manuel Calderon said. “We told them to protect the middle on her, and don’t let her drive middle because once she gets to the paint, she’s pretty much automatic.”

Finley wasn’t much of an issue in the first half for Needles, which never trailed, and led by as many as 21 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Only three Blue Knights players scored — J’Laiya Regan had six points, and Cecilei Dixon scored five. Monica Marshall had 10 rebounds.

Lincoln County 52, Calvary Chapel 28 — At Del Sol, Brynlee Wadsworth had a game-high 17 points as the Lynx rolled over the Lions in the other semifinal.

Brooklyn Hafen had 10 points for the Lynx (23-3), who led 18-4 after the first quarter and out-scored the Lions 20-4 in the third quarter.

Lincoln County advanced to its first state tournament since 2014. Its last championship came in 2000.

Taliah Brown scored 16 points to lead the Lions (12-11).

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