ST. GEORGE – There’s nothing like a rousing comeback by the home team to warm the interior of the Burns Arena.
Trevor Hill made a twisting layup with 10 seconds left and the Dixie State Trailblazers rallied from nine down with 4:33 left to nip Biola 70-69 Wednesday night in a key PacWest Conference game at the Burns.
“Sometimes you get lucky and win games maybe you didn’t deserve and sometimes you lose games you did,” Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins said. “It was good to get this one. We just have to come out more ready to play on Friday.”
Indeed, DSU didn’t spend much time in the lead in this game. The Blazers started with a 4-0 advantage and Dixie State trailed by as many as 10 in the first half (34-24). DSU headed into intermission down by a 38-30 count courtesy of a miserable shooting first half. The Trailblazers made just 13 of 29 field goals and 1 of 5 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes. DSU was also outrebounded 19-13 in the first half.
Meanwhile, Biola was hitting a high percentage, making 16 of 30 from the floor and 3 for 9 from deep in forging that eight-point halftime advantage.
Twice in the second half, things looked bleak for Dixie State. Biola came out of the locker room and scored five quick points on a jumper by Levi Auble and 3-pointer by Blake Shannon and it was 43-30 just 68 seconds into the second half.
DSU grabbed momentum and owned it for the next six minutes. When Wade Miller hit a corner trey to cap a 15-0 Dixie State run, it looked like the Blazers would take over the game for good.
But Biola responded to the run with one of its own. Down 45-43, the Eagles immediately went to work with Alex Talma tying the score with two free throws and then Trevor Treinen and Talma hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.
“We needed more energy,” DSU’s Brandon Simister said. “That’s how we made that run and that’s how we got back in it late in the game, with energy.”
The Eagles run ended up being 21-10 over an eight-minute span. The surge was led by Auble and Treinen, but those two guys would ultimately factor in the Dixie State win.
With Biola ahead 64-55, free throws and steals led a Dixie State run that brought the score to 64-63. Quincy Mathews had a layup and Simister hit a jumper in the 8-0 surge.
With 1:29 to play, Hill assisted on a Zac Hunter three-point play (with a foul by Trenen) that helped the Blazers finally catch Biola at 66-66. Auble was called for an illegal screen with 1:03 to play, but DSU turned it over, giving the Eagles the ball in a tie game with 43 seconds left.
Biola missed, but Talma collected the offensive rebound and was fouled. His two free throws with 30 seconds on the clock made it 68-66 for the visitors with 16 seconds left.
Dixie State nearly turned it over, but as Simister was saving the ball on the sideline, he was bumped hard by Treinen. Simister, who made 18 straight in a game last month, buried both free throws to tie the score once more, 68-68.
The Eagles took the lead seconds later as Michael Bagatourian made 1 of 2 free throws after being fouled near the hoop with 13 seconds left. That set up a final play for DSU.
Hill took the inbound pass on the dead run and got a screen from Hunter at midcourt. With Simister and Kyler Nielson on the wings, Hill drove hard to the basket with several options. His best one was to take it to the hole and lay it in off the glass.
“We worked on that last play all week this week,” Judkins said. “We hoped they’d switch a big on Trevor and then he could go by him and that’s exactly what they did. Trev made a great move and went by their big guy and laid it in.”
Hill said it just instinct.
“They were shading my left side, I’m not sure why,” he said. “We’ve done that play a bunch of times in practice and it was easy and natural in the flow of the game.”
That left Biola nine seconds to get a winning shot off. The Eagles didn’t waste that time. Shannon launched a 3-pointer that was hard, but rebounded by teammate Auble. He managed to get a baseline jumper off just before the buzzer that rimmed around and then fell off to the side.
“I don’t know how that shot didn’t go in,” Judkins said. “We never should have given up that offensive rebound, but we’ll take the win however we can get it.”
After just a three-point first half, Hill cranked it up for 15 second-half points, plus seven assists and a pair of steals. Hunter finished with 14 points and Simister added 11, making all four of his free throws.
The senior from Desert Hills High School is one of the top free throw shooters in Division II, shooting at a 93-percent clip. Simister has taken 57 free throws this season and missed just four. In four years at Dixie State, Simister is 256 for 306, a career total of 84 percent.
“For me, it’s a mental thing, cause I feel like a lot of us good shooters have an edge mentally,” Simister said. “I kind of just imagine my backyard, where I’ve made thousands of free throws, with my dad rebounding. Whether the game’s on the line or it’s the first play of the game, it doesn’t really matter. I just try to focus on that.”
Simister made 18 for 18, a Dixie State record, in a victory two weeks ago at Concordia-Irvine.
The Blazers survived against Biola despite being outshot (47 percent vs. 42 percent) and outrebounded (25-21), thanks in big part to turnovers. The Blazers forced 17 Eagle turnovers, with 11 steals, including three by Mathews. Daylor Youngblood also provided some big moments in the game, snatching a couple of steals and handing out two assists.
Dixie State improves to 7-6 overall and 4-2 in the PacWest with the victory. The Blazers play their third game in a row at home Friday night as Dominican (3-9, 2-3) visits the Burns Arena (7:30 p.m. tipoff).
Biola, 5-8 and 0-6, was led by Shannon and Talma, who had 15 points each.
Biola 66, DSU 56
The Trailblazers (6-7, 2-4 PacWest) saw a bevy of open looks throughout the contest, but connected on just 27 percent (19 of 68) of shots from the field and 18 percent (6 of 33) from 3-point range (both season-low marks). Matti Ventling finished with a team-high 13 points and six rebounds, while Mariah Martin added 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Ashlee Burge chipped in six points and seven rebounds to go with two assists.
Dixie State opened a 6-2 lead early in the first quarter after Ventling buried back-to-back triples. Biola responded with an 8-4 run to tie the game at 10-10 at the 3:35mark. The Trailblazers then closed the quarter on a 6-0 run when Martin and Keslee Stevenson each hit a 3-pointer to stake DSU to a 16-10 lead.
Biola countered with a 14-3 run to open the second quarter and built a 24-19 lead midway through the frame. Unfazed, the Trailblazers bounced back with an 8-0 run to retake the lead at 27-24. But the lead didn’t last long. The Eagles closed the second quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 35-27 lead into the halftime break.
The Trailblazers methodically chipped away at the Biola lead in the third quarter, hitting four free throws over a four-and-a-half-minute span before Martin recorded a steal and a layup to cut the lead to 38-33 at the 5:06 mark. The Eagles answered with consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead back to 44-35 before DSU closed the quarter on an 8-1 run to pull to within 45-43.
Dixie State continued the run into the fourth quarter, taking a 50-45 lead to cap the 15-1 stretch when Tramina Jordan converted a layup and a 3-pointer early in the frame. But like the second quarter, the lead wouldn’t last long. The Trailblazers went cold, while the Eagles closed the game on a 21-6 run to clinch the victory.
The Trailblazers continue their four-game home stand vs. Dominican on Friday. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
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