ST. GEORGE – A door closed for Desert Hills when they found out leading scorer Ty Rutledge’s torn ankle ligaments will keep him out for at least a month.
But another one opened as guys like Chase Thompson and Quincy Matthews took advantage of the added playing time to lead the Thunder to a 57-49 Region 9 victory at Dixie Wednesday night.
“He’s definitely our team leader,” Thompson said of his fellow senior. “With him out, we all need to step up and do our jobs better. I tried to show more leadership out there. We all needed to pick it up.”
Thompson made four straight free throws late in the game and Josh “Sugar Bear” Anderson had 14 points and 13 rebounds to help the Thunder fend off a scrappy Dixie squad.
“That was wild and wooly,” Thunder coach Wade Turley said. “We’ll take it any way we can get it. But you’ve got to hand it to Dixie. They didn’t give up.”
Several times the game teetered on Blowout City, but each time Dixie made a mini run to draw close again.
Midway through the third quarter, Desert Hills pushed the lead out to 34-25. But a runner by Dakota Bair and a pair of free throws by Kyler Smith pulled the Flyers to within 34-29.
Early in the fourth, Desert Hills again extended the lead, this time to 10 at 39-29 with 7:32 left in the game. But an 8-2 run by Dixie, with Bair hitting on four of the eight points, made it 41-37 with 5:05 left to play.
But as scrappy as the Dixie squad played, the Flyers just couldn’t hit that one big shot that would give them a realistic chance of winning the game.
“Against Cedar last week, we were playing kind of selfish and all blaming each other,” Thompson said. “Tonight we played as a team and kept our composure.”
Dixie pulled within 53-49 with 34 seconds to play on a 3-pointer by Jordan Hall. But a loose ball scramble led to an Anderson lay-up to make it 55-49 and the big guy iced the game with two free throws with 12 seconds to play.
That trey by Hall was one of just two made the entire evening by the Flyers, who finished 2 of 19 from beyond the arc in the game.
Desert Hills, 6-2 overall and 1-1 in region play, made 4 of 11 treys, including three makes by junior Jordan Hokanson, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Thunder out-rebounded Dixie 34-21. The Flyers, 1-1 and 3-5, were led by Smith’s 18 points. Blake Barney had 13.
Both teams will play in the Red Rock Rumble 2012 Thursday through Saturday at Dixie State College. Desert Hills plays Thursday at 1:30 p.m. vs. Manti. Dixie battles Timpview at 6:45 Thursday night.
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