ST. GEORGE – The best — and perhaps only — way to stop a losing streak is play some down-low, mean-streak defense.
“Our defense forced some difficult shots and turnovers,” said Dixie head coach Ryan Cuff. “That translated into some easy buckets for us on the offensive end.”
R.J. Wilgar and Jake Hawes combined for all 17 of Dixie’s first quarter points, while the Dixie defense held the Tigers to just four points.
Dixie knew it could not coast after the first quarter.
“Hurricane never gives up,” Cuff said. “They are well-coached and give 100 percent on every play. You can’t relax against them.”
The Tigers were able to keep pace with Dixie in the second quarter, outscoring the Flyers 13-12 behind the solid play of reserve Austin Beatty. Beatty scored six in the second quarter, but the Tigers were still looking at a 29-17 deficit at halftime.
Hurricane continued to match Dixie’s intensity in the third quarter. Cody LeBaron had five points in the quarter as the Tigers bested Dixie again by one point, 14-13. After three Dixie still led 42-31. Most of Dixie’s points came inside the paint.
“We wanted to take the ball to the hole and either get some easy baskets or go to the foul line,” said Wilgar. “We still don’t pass up the open 3s, but we have been emphasizing drives in the lane.”
If Hurricane had any chance of winning, the Tigers needed to make up more than one point per quarter. James Bennion quickly cut the Flyers lead to single-digits with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Hawes answered with a jump shot in the key. On Hurricane’s ensuing possession, Hawes stole the pass from Kaden Langston and had what appeared to be a breakaway layup. Langston caught up to Hawes and fouled him from behind before he got the shot up. Both players went to the floor and in frustration, Hawes slammed the ball and received a technical.
LeBaron hit both technical free throws and Langston nailed a 3-pointer on the penalty possession to cut the Flyer lead to five points. That was as close as Hurricane would get. The Flyers hit six consecutive free throws, two by Harrison Labrum and four by Wilgar. After an empty Tiger possession, Tyler Bennett split two trapping defenders just over half court, spun around a third defender, then finger-rolled a heavily contested shot over Beatty.
“It happened so fast,” said Bennett. “Honestly I was just reacting to their defense.”
The shot renewed the difference to double-digits, 52-41.
Hurricane continued to press. The Flyers, instead of pulling the ball out to stall, continued to attack the press and capitalized by scoring the closing baskets in the paint.
“Our guard play was exceptional,” said Cuff. “Tyler (Bennett) and R.J. (Wilgar) controlled the game and did not make any mistakes.”
While the Tigers would again win the quarter, they could only pull two points closer, outscoring Dixie 22-20 for the final tally of 62-53. Beatty led all scorers, recording a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. LeBaron joined him in double-figures with 14 points. Langston and Bennion scored eight and seven points respectively.
For Dixie, Wilgar joined Beatty with game-high scoring honors with 16 points. Hawes scored 14. They were joined in double-figures by Bennett and Labrum with 11 and 10 points.
Dixie’s win snaps a three-game losing streak and pulls them to 10-7 overall, 3-5 in region play. The Flyers will host Pine View on Friday night. The Tigers lose their seventh in a row and fall to 5-13, 1-7 in region action. They will try to get back on the winning track when they travel to Desert Hills Friday.
Stats: DHS 62, HHS 53
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