FRESNO, Calif. – Dixie State has found itself behind late in a few games this year. Playing against Fresno Pacific would be no exception.
But as has been the established pattern, this Red Storm team knows how to close out games. Saturday night they beat Fresno Pacific 85-80 to grab a key Pac-West road win.
Down by many as 10 points, Fresno Pacific had the momentum in its favor as the Sunbirds clawed their way back to take a two-point lead on a trey from Jackson Carbajal with just over one minute to play.
Dixie point guard Kimball Payne made a cut off of a Zach Robbins’ pick, sliced to the lane, hit the layup and drew the foul on Carbajal. His free throw completed the three-point play and put the Red Storm back up by one, 79-78.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Louis Garrett stepped in front of an errant pass by FPU’s Trevon Clayton near the end line and converted the turnover into a basket. Dixie led by three with 55 seconds on the clock.
The Sunbirds Malcolm Griffin, who beat DSU on a last-second shot last year, then took the pass from Carbajal, drove right and pulled the Sunbirds to within one again, 81-80. On Dixie’s next possession, DeQuan Thompson slipped a screen set for Dalton Groskreutz, took the pass from Groskreutz, and had an uncontested layup, extending the lead once again, 83-80, with 17 seconds to play.
Griffin once again got the ball, faked left, dribbled left and put up a three to tie the game. The ball hit iron, came off long into the waiting hands of Robbins, who led all players with 15 rebounds. Robbins was fouled immediately by Clayton. His two free throws sealed the victory and the Red Storm continued its perfect record at 6-0.
The first 10 minutes of the game were controlled by the Sunbirds as they led by as many as six points on excellent guard play from Carbajal and Griffin, who combined for 19 first-half points. Garrett kept the Red Storm in striking distance connecting on two 3-pointers.
Dixie closed out the first half with a 31-17 run to take an eight-point lead into halftime. Thompson was nearly perfect in the first half, going 4 for 5 in field goals (2-2 from 3-point land) and 3-3 at the stripe, scoring 13 points to lead the Red Storm.
At the start of the second half, after Payne extended the lead to 10, the Sunbirds took little time closing the gap, pulling to within one point, 52-51. The 12-3 run was sparked by some excellent post play by FPU’s Jonathan Jefferson, who scored seven of the 12 points.
Dixie was able to extend and maintain a lead between 3-8 points for the next 10 minutes. However, with 5:25 to play, Clayton tied the score at 70 with his third 3-pointer of the game. A jumper by Griffin and two free throws by Carbajal put the Sunbirds up 74-70 with 4:20 to play.
Groskreutz ended the FPU 7-0 run when Garrett found him cutting through the lane. A coast-to-coast layup by Payne tied the score at 74 with 3:20 to play.
Jefferson retook the lead for the Sunbirds, hitting one of two free throws with 2:22 to play. Garrett found Groskreutz again cutting through the lane as the lead see sawed back to the Red Storm, 76-75, with 1:25 to play, setting up the last minute heroics.
Dixie out-rebounded FPU 47-31, leading to a 21-7 advantage in 2nd-chance points. Garrett led a balanced scoring attack from the Red Storm with 17 points. Thompson chipped in 15, while Groskreutz and Payne each scored 14. Robbins also scored in double figures with 10.
For FPU, Griffin led all scorers with 23. Clayton scored 18. Carbajal and Jefferson finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
The loss drops the Sunbirds to 5-4, 0-1 in conference play. Dixie remains undefeated and carries a 2-0 record in conference. Dixie will return home for it’s conference home opener against Point Loma Nazarene next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
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