After watching Yemiyah Morris score 29 points in a quarterfinal win over Green Valley on Wednesday, Foothill came out with a simple plan on Friday night.
Keep the 6-foot-5-inch Morris out of the paint.
The plan worked, especially for the first three quarters, and the Falcons earned a 45-36 road victory in the Sunrise Region semifinals.
“The key for us was my big post players,” Foothill coach Laura Allen said. “We were really trying to keep (Morris) out of the paint, because we know that she’s obviously a huge threat inside. Our game play was to try to body her up and keep her as far away from the rim as we could. I thought our kids worked really hard to try to do that.”
Foothill (18-8) plays Liberty (30-1) in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Canyon Springs.
Morris had just six points through three quarters as Foothill took a 31-15 lead. But Foothill struggled against the Pioneers full-court pressure in the fourth quarter, allowing Canyon Springs (18-4) to make a run.
Foothill turned the ball over 11 times in the fourth quarter, and 18 of the Pioneers’ 27 second-half points came off turnovers.
“We just haven’t seen a press for a while,” Allen said. “So we were a little rusty there. But we’ll fix that. Our kids are good, and sometimes we get excited and think we have a dribbling lane and it’s not there.”
The Falcons were most effective when getting the ball to junior Rae Burrell, who was able to break the press and consistently draw fouls. Burrell was 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth quarter, and finished with 20 points.
“Obviously we want the ball in her hands and Trinity (Betoney’s) hands a lot, because they’re very good ball handlers,” Allen said.
Burrell struggled early, and looked to be forcing things in the first half. She had four points on 2-for-10 shooting at halftime, but was 4-for-6 from the field in the second half. She also had eight rebounds and three assists.
Betoney added 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Falcons, who are playing in their fourth consecutive Sunrise title game.
“It’s exciting for us,” Allen said. “We’ve been in this championship game a couple years in a row now, and they’re hungry for it. They really want to give their best performance and really do their best. This year they’re really together as a team, and everybody’s just pulling for each other, no matter who’s on the court.”
Morris finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals for Canyon Springs. Dayonna Maddox added 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals for the Pioneers.
Liberty 65, Coronado 28 — The Patriots started the game on a 12-0 run fueled by 10 points off five turnovers in less than 90 seconds and rolled past the Cougars in the other semifinal.
“We always preach defense, because defense is our offense,” Liberty coach Chad Kapanui said. “The girls came ready to play today. They came out sluggish on Wednesday, but tonight they came out strong and ready to go. They know its a different level right now. We’re in the semifinals, so we’ve got to step up and win. They played great on defense for sure.”
Dre’una Edwards finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and five steals to power the Patriots.
“Dre’una’s a big part of our success,” Kapanui said. “With her energy on the court, it feeds everyone.”
Edwards had 20 points and 11 rebounds at the half as Liberty took a 38-17 lead. The Patriots scored 27 points off 23 first-half turnovers. For the game, Coronado turned the ball over 34 times, leading to 44 Liberty points.
Kaily Kaimikaua added 15 points, three assists and three steals, and Celine Quintino scored 10 for the Patriots. Janae Nickels came off the bench to grab eight rebounds.
The Patriots will be facing Foothill for the third time this season. Liberty won the regular-season matchups 74-47 and 66-63.
“It seems like everyone’s been talking about this game,” Kapanui said. “Foothill’s a good team. They’re big, they’ve got some good players, Division I players. It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be a battle, for sure.”
Payton Caci led Coronado with nine points.