ST. GEORGE – The Hurricane Tigers got their first win in Region 9. And amazingly, it came against the red-hot Dixie Flyers on their home court.
Dixie was riding a seven-game winning streak, but the Tigers James Bennion poured in 37 points, hitting from all over the floor, leading Hurricane to a 74-64 victory.
The game opened up with Hurricane going inside to Reagan Hinton. The post hit the Tigers first three shots. Kaden Langston then hit two 3-pointers before Bennion would get his first basket at the end of the quarter. Hurricane held a 14-8 advantage after one.
That lead would climb to double-digits quickly as Bennion hit his first two 3-pointers to start the second quarter. With just over two minutes gone in the second, Hurricane led 22-8. Dixie’s R.J. Wilgar completed a three-point play to break the run. The teams would trade baskets the remainder of the half. Nate Crockett’s bucket with 10 seconds remaining would cut the Tiger lead to 31-21 going into halftime.
The third quarter was all Bennion. The Tiger wing man outscored Dixie 18-15. Bennion hit 6 of 7 from the field, including all four from distance. He also hit both free throws.
“James is capable of having games like this consistently,” said Hurricane head coach Todd Langston. “This past summer he scored like this every game. I think with Kaden (Langston) out, he took it upon himself to fill that role and get the other players involved.”
Jake Hawes and Wilgar tried to keep Dixie in pace. The two combined for 10 points, but at the end of three the Flyers were facing a 49-36 deficit.
The fourth quarter started much like the first for the Tigers. The inside-outside combination of Hinton and Langston kept Hurricane in front by double-digits. With five minutes to play, Hinton’s post move gave Hurricane a 57-44 lead.
“Towards the end of the fourth quarter, they began their fouling strategy,” said Coach Langston. “They would foul us, then Hawes or (Tyler) Bennett would push the ball up quickly and score. We hit our free throws. If we don’t hit them, we probably don’t win the game.”
The strategy paid off for awhile. Hawes 10-foot jump shot cut the lead to 62-56 with just under two minutes to play. After a Tyson Yardley free throw, Dixie would cut the lead to five with a fast-break layup. With 1:36 to play the score was 63-58.
“We had been hitting our free throws all game,” said Dixie head coach Ryan Cuff. “We heard their coaching staff instruct their players to not foul. So we told our slashers to get to the basket. Unfortunately we had dug ourselves too deep a hole.”
On the next possession, Bennion was fouled by Izaic Blazzard. Bennion connected on both free throws to extend the lead to seven. Bennett immediately answered again to cut the lead to 65-60 with 1:16 remaining. The Flyers would get no closer.
Wilgar would foul Hinton on the next possession and have to take a seat with his fifth foul. The foul did not prevent Hinton from scoring the basket. Hinton could not complete the three-point play, missing the free throw. Bennett was fouled at the other end and hit one of two to make the score 67-61.
Hurricane scored the next seven points, all from the charity stripe, as the Tigers connected on 7 of 8 down the stretch, while the Flyers failed to score. A 3-pointer at the buzzer from Nate Crockett completed the scoring 74-64.
“Though I feel badly for our players, I am happy for Coach Langston and his players,” said Cuff. “It is hard to go 0-6 (in region) when you know that you are not an 0-6 team. They were the better team tonight. They deserved to win the game.”
Langston echoed the sentiment.
“This is our first win in region,” said Coach Langston. “I told our boys earlier we can still make the playoffs. We have a chance to face everyone again. We have a chance to turn those earlier one and two-point losses into wins the second half of region play.”
For the game, Bennion shot 11 of 16 from the field, including hitting 8 of 10 from distance. He also connected on 7 of 9 free throws. Joining Bennion in double-figures were Hinton with 14 and Langston with 11. Austin Beatty scored 5 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
For Dixie, Hawes led with 23 points. Wilgar scored 13. Bennett had 12 points and 7 rebounds.
As a team, Hurricane hit 58 percent of its shots, including 61 percent (11-18) from beyond the arc. They also connected on 17 of 24 from the stripe.
Dixie hit 42 percent from the field (21-49) and 80 percent from the line (17-21).
The loss drops Dixie to 13-4 overall, 5-2 in region play. The Flyers will travel to Desert Hills on Wednesday for a rematch of a game that the Thunder won at the buzzer earlier this season.
Hurricane gets its first region win (1-6) and improves to 4-12 overall. The Tigers host Pine View on Wednesday.
Stats: HHS 74, DHS 64
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