ST. GEORGE – “If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.” Phil Jackson was talking about Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 NBA finals. For the Desert Hills Thunder they had four Buddhas to feed the ball to as their post players out-rebounded and out-shot their counterparts on the Dixie Flyers en route to a 60-46 victory. The win avenged an earlier loss to Dixie Dec. 11.
The starting front court of Trey Tanner, Quincy Mathews and Taylor Houston combined with backup center Austin Adams for 43 points and 27 rebounds.
“They out-rebounded us in the earlier game,” said Matthews. “We have been emphasizing our team rebounding in practice.”
The Thunder had a 34-16 advantage on the boards. Matthews and Houston also had the task of slowing down Dixie leading scorer Jake Hawes, who led all scorers with 18 points.
The beginning of the game looked to be a rout. The Thunder scored the first 12 points before Dixie’s Harrison Labrum connected on a 3-pointer. Desert Hills scored four more points before Hawes hit a reverse layup at the buzzer to draw the Flyers to 16-5 at the end of one.
The Flyers caught fire in the second quarter as their 3-point shooting got going. Tyler Bennett, Jake Christianson and Hawes all connected and the Flyers won the quarter 21-14 and pulled within four.
“We did not really make any adjustments,” said Tanner. “We knew that their strength was 3-point shooting and the coaches reemphasized closing out on the shooters.”
Turley agreed, saying it was execution, not strategy that needed adjustment.
“We did a much better job against their shooters in the second half,” said Turley. “Dixie only had one 3-pointer after halftime and that was a highly-contested shot by Hawes at the end of the third quarter.”
The third quarter was almost played to a draw as the Thunder edged Dixie by one basket, 16-14. Going into the fourth quarter, Desert Hills led 44-38.
A key stretch early in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach for the Flyers. On a drive to the basket, Mathews was fouled hard by Hawes, knocking him to the ground. Hawes then stood over him and said something that drew a technical foul.
“Jake used to attend Desert Hills,” said Mathews. “I think that history and the fact that he is a good player brings out the competitiveness in both of us.”
Hawes went to the bench. Mathews hit three of the four free throws. Over the next two minutes that Hawes was on the bench, the Thunder outscored Dixie 9-2 and the lead went from four to 14, 56-42, with less than four minutes left to play.
Desert Hills went into their controlled stall offense and Dixie was unable to get any closer with the final spread sticking at 14 points, 60-46.
The Thunder shot 52 percent from the floor while holding Dixie to 43 percent. They also outscored the Flyers from the stripe, 16-10.
Joining Hawes in double-figures for Dixie was Tyler Bennett with 14 points. For Desert Hills, Mathews led with 17. Tanner added 14. Houston had 3 points and 10 rebounds. Adams added nine points and five rebounds.
The Flyers will look to halt their three-game skid Wednesday when they will host Hurricane. They drop to 9-7, 2-5 in Region 9. With the win, the Thunder snap a two-game slide and move to 9-7, 4-3 in region play. They will travel to Cedar on Wednesday night.
Highlight package produced by Samantha Tommer
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