ST. GEORGE — Snow Canyon averages about 58 points a game, but the Warriors also surrender about 57 a game, so they’re not exactly known for their defense. That might change after Wednesday night.
SC held Desert Hills scoreless for a nearly six-minute stretch in the third quarter, then held the Thunder to just one point for the game’s final four and a half minutes to secure a 53-44 win in front of a packed house at the Thunderdome.
“We just had to be more intense than they were,” said SC guard Tanner Sampson, who helped ice the game with three free throws in the last 28 seconds. “We had to get on the floor and get those loose balls. At the beginning of the game, when they were getting all those offensive rebounds, it was looking pretty iffy. But we turned up the intensity.”
Desert Hills survived the first dry spell. Coming out of a 26-26 halftime tie, the Thunder couldn’t get a basket to fall. With Nate Gottfredson and Hayden Anderson controlling the glass, Snow Canyon started to pull away and the Warriors built the lead to 32-26 on a Gottfredson bucket. Quincy Mathews finally got the lid off the basket by hitting a 12-footer off a screen, making it 32-28 with 2:10 to go in the third quarter.
Sam Messinger followed that with a 3-pointer at the 1:24 mark of the third to cut it to 32-31, but just four seconds after that, Anderson scored on a fast break to put the Warriors ahead 34-31, which is where the score would be at the end of the third quarter.
Snow Canyon maintained the lead until Jordan Hokanson hit a 3-pointer and tied the game at 41-41 with 5:31 to play in the game. Brock Staheli and Gottfredson each hit one free throw to make it 43-41, but the game was tied again on a Hokanson layup with 4:42 to play. The bad news for Desert Hills, though: It was their last field goal of the game. In fact, DH would manage just one point the rest of the way.
“We have a lot of things to improve on, but I was really happy with our defense tonight,” SC coach James Brown said. “We caught some breaks late in the game, but we also made some things happen with our hustle.”
The Warriors broke the 43-43 tie with 4:09 left when 5-foot-9 guard Chase Jenkins got a shot to go over DH’s Austin Adams, who is 6-foot-5. The basket included a foul call on Adams and Jenkins’ free throw made it 46-43. A couple of Snow Canyon free throws made it 48-43 as the teams traded turnovers and SC ran as much clock as possible. Taylor Houston hit one free throw to make it 48-44 with 1:17 to play, but DH let the Warriors run about 45 seconds off the clock before Sampson iced the win with 3 of 4 free throws. Warner Rigby added a late layup for the final margin.
“It was a great atmosphere here tonight,” said Jenkins, who had 10 points in the game. “When it got tight late in the game, I was pretty nervous, but it was a lot of fun, with the crowd cheering and screaming for every basket. It was crazy.”
The first quarter was a wild one. Snow Canyon started hot, going up 9-3 behind the strength of Gottfredson inside. But he and Anderson got two fouls and went to the bench and the Thunder capitalized, going on an 11-0 run to take a 14-9 lead. Seldom-used Kade Potter, who averages just 1.7 points a game, stopped the run with a 3-pointer from the baseline. Jacob Frei thn ended the first period with a three-point play to give SC a 15-14 lead after one.
“Kade has deep range,” Brown said. “He’s always been a guard, but he’s sprouted in the last year and now he’s 6-4. He’ll probably be our biggest guy back next year, so we need him to learn how to play the post. But he could present some match-up problems with his range.”
Gottfredson led all scorers with 15 points, while Mathews had 12 and Houston had 10 for Desert Hills. The Warriors pull into a tie with Pine View for first place at 5-1 in Region 9 (10-5 overall) with the win. Snow Canyon visits the Panthers next Wednesday night in their next game.
Desert Hills, 8-7 overall and 3-3 in region, falls into a tie for third place with Cedar. The Thunder are home against Dixie Friday night. The Flyers beat Desert Hills 56-40 back on Dec. 11.
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