FRESNO, Calif. – The Dixie State Red Storm took care of business by sweeping their opponents on a three-game road trip in Northern California to stay in the hunt for the PacWest season championship and a top seed in the PacWest Conference Tournament. The latest victim was Fresno Pacific as Dixie State dispatched the Sunbirds 99-88 by hitting clutch free throws late in the game Wednesday night.
“We had to play one or our better games,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “Fresno is one of the six teams fighting to get in the tournament. They are coached well and they caught us out of position a few times and took advantage of it.”
In the first 10 minutes, the Storm came out smokin’. After FPU opened the game with a 3-pointer for its only lead of the first half, Dixie State rattled off 16 straight points. Mark Ogden and Trevor Hill each had six points during the run.
The lead climbed to as high as 14 points when Hill’s drive to the hoop put the Storm up 22-8 with 10:21 remaining in the half. The Broncos got the lead back under double digits when sharpshooter Gabe Solarin hit a 3-pointer with 6:22 remaining. FPU continued to inch back and had pulled to within three points off two free throws from Spencer Krannitz with 1:20 remaining.
The Storm pushed the lead back to 43-37 at halftime on a jumper from Ogden. The shot gave Ogden a perfect half, hitting all nine of his shots for 18 points. Hill had 10 points at halftime. As a team, DSU hit a blistering 66 percent from the field while holding FPU to 42 percent. The Storm outrebounded Fresno Pacific 19-12. The Sunbirds stayed close thanks to their 3-point shooting, hitting four more than DSU.
Fresno Pacific came out strong in the second half, outscoring the Storm 15-4 over the first four minutes to take a 52-47 lead.
“We got a little lazy fighting through screens on our matchup zone,” said Judkins. “We did not rotate timely and they got some good shots. I told our guys that we needed to start getting stops.”
Mason Sawyer’s first 3-pointer tied the game up with 15 minutes remaining. From there, the Storm went on an 11-2 run. Brandon Simister’s 3-pointer gave DSU a 63-54 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining.
The Sunbirds dug back and actually pulled to within one with 7:39 remaining on a 3-pointer by FPU’s Spencer Krannitz. Simister and Sawyer hit back-to-back treys, then Simister got a 3-point play with 5:42 to give the Storm a 77-69 cushion.
The lead grew back to double digits on Sawyer’s layup with 3:10 remaining, 86-75. The Sunbirds began fouling to stop the clock. The Storm responded by hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final three minutes to pull out the 99-88 win.
Dixie State had 22 assists on 32 baskets. Hill recorded seven of those. Ogden led the team with 24 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double. Joining him in double figures were Simister (23), Hill (16), Zac Hunter (15), and Sawyer (12).
“Zac (Hunter) has had two good games in a row now,” said Judkins. “He is one of our better offensive players. He was crucial tonight, especially when Mark (Ogden) and Josh (Fuller) got into foul trouble.”
As a team, DSU shot 62 percent for the game, including 44 percent from beyond the arc, while holding the Broncos to 46 percent. DSU outrebounded the Sunbirds 39-22 and outscored FPU on the fast break 18-8, with a 40-30 advantage on points in the paint.
The Storm slide into sole possession of second place in the Pacific West Conference with a matchup against first-place Concordia in the final game of the season. If they beat Concordia on Saturday, they get a share of the conference season championship and a lock on a first-round bye in the conference tournament with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
To get the No. 1 seed, DSU needs help with a loss from Azusa Pacific. Azusa Pacific is a half game behind the Storm at 13-5 with two games remaining, but hold the edge over DSU with tiebreakers should the Cougars win their last two games. Cal Baptist also sits at 13-5, but slide behind the Storm in tiebreakers.
“We are going to need our fans on Saturday night,” said Judkins. “It will be our seniors’ last game at home and we will be playing against the top team (Concordia) for a share of the season championship.”
Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Dixie State 56, Fresno Pacific 51
The Dixie State women’s team overcame a horrid second quarter to take a huge lead against the home team Lady Sunbirds, then held on in the fourth for the victory.
Taylor Mann recorded her 21st double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Fellow post Ashlee Burge joined her with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Burge opened the game with two baskets for the Storm. Tomorie Sangster ended the first quarter with four straight points to give DSU a 14-10 lead.
Then it seemed as if an invisible lid was placed over the Storm’s basket for much of the second quarter as they could manage only one basket. The Storm hit nine percent from the field in the second quarter, going 1-11, and also turned the ball over six times. By the time the halftime horn had sounded, they faced a 25-17 deficit.
Coming out of halftime, the Storm scored the first eight points to tie the game. Taylor Mann’s layup with 6:33 left in the third put the score at 25-25. The teams stayed close through the rest of the third. The Storm ended the quarter on another 8-0 run to give them a 35-32 lead. Burge had four points during the run.
In the fourth, the Storm kept the pressure on. They scored the first five points to get the lead to 40-32 on Mann’s 3-point play with eight minutes remaining. The Storm maintained a 6-8 point cushion over the next six minutes. Tramina Jordan’s 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining gave DSU a 53-43 lead. Another 3-pointer from Aliya Davis upped the lead to 56-45 with 1:34 on the clock.
The Storm tried to run clock. A turnover, two missed free throws and a missed basket prevented any further scoring, but their large cushion was too much for the Lady Sunbirds to overcome.
The Storm improve to 8-17 overall, 8-11 in the PacWest as DSU wins for the fourth time in five games. The Lady Sunbirds fall to 3-23 overall, 3-16 in the PacWest.
The Storm will return home to take on Concordia University Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.
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