OGDEN – How do you escape from a raging Bear? Don’t ask Snow Canyon.
The Warriors faced an unbelievably hot Bear River team Friday night in the 3A Semifinals and got mauled, losing 83-55 in a game that was not close after the first quarter.
“I’m not really sure what happened other than I think it got a little more physical than we were used to early,” SC coach James Brown said. “Our kids didn’t respond to the physical play. We just weren’t ready for it.”
It was a physical game, but it was also an amazing shooting performance by the Bears, who may have put together their best game of the season.
“If we play like we did tonight, I like our chances in the championship,” Bears coach Kasey Winters said.
Snow Canyon looked good early and jumped out to an 11-8 lead with 3:20 to go in the first quarter. But Wade Miller, in a harbinger of things to come, hit back to back 3-pointers that turned the 11-8 deficit into a 14-11 lead. Garrett Fronk hit his second 3-pointer for Bear River and the Bears pushed their lead to 21-16 at the end of the first quarter.
The Warriors made some nice plays in the second quarter, with Chandler Gines and Jake Frei hitting tough baskets. But for every play SC made, it seemed Bear River made two, or more.
“They are very athletic,” Brown said of the Bears. “They’re long. They’re quick.”
At 25-18 with 5:49 to go in the second quarter, the Bears seemed to hit a higher gear. Miller hit a runner, then another 3-pointer and Nick Hillis made a couple of inside baskets and all of the sudden it was 39-23. The 14-5 run, spawned mostly by SC turnovers and Bears 3-pointers, was enough to teeter the game on a blowout’s edge.
When Fronk hit his third 3-pointer just out of the gate in the second half, the blowout was officially on.
“My kids battled,” Brown said. “They certainly could have just quit, but they didn’t. That’s the way they’ve always been. They battle and they work hard.”
Gines played tough as nails in the third quarter and scored 11 of Snow Canyon’s 13 points in the period. But the Bears put up 20 in the third and pushed the lead to 61-38. In fact, Bear River scored at least 20 in every quarter and hit 53 percent from the floor in the game. BR also made 9 of 19 treys (47 percent) and even shot well from the line, making 14 of 18 freebies (78 percent).
In contrast, Snow Canyon made just 18 of 58 shots (31 percent) and 6 of 20 3-pointers. The Bear River bench outscored Snow Canyon’s reserves 31-13.
“The legs for us were just not there,” Brown said. “They were going right by us in a hurry.”
Winters, who played college basketball at Dixie State and was known for his toughness, has coached his team to a 19-7 record.
“One of the reasons I was attracted to Bear River was I’d seen them play before and some of those kids already have that tough mentality,” Winters said. ”Our boys do play hard. They get after it defensively and rebound and just give it all they’ve got.”
For the Warriors, a year of heartache and off-court sadness and pain will not end in a state championship. But SC can take third with a win Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.). Those consolation games are never easy for a team that had championship aspirations.
“This is a game about character,” Brown said. “It’s a pride game, about who we represent and who we wear on our chest.”
Miller led all scorers with 25 points, but had plenty of help as 11 Bears scored in the game. Fronk and Hillis both finished with 11.
Gines led Snow Canyon with 17 points and Nate Gottfredson and Brendan Truman had nine each. The Bears neutralized Gottfredson’s size advantage by turning it into a run-and-gun full-court game. The SC center did have 12 rebounds.
Snow Canyon, 15-8, turned the ball over 15 times and made just 13 of 25 free throws (52 percent). The Warriors play Wasatch at 3 p.m.. in the third place game. Bear River faces Region 11 foe Morgan for the championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
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