ST. GEORGE — Even Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t help Dixie High School Thursday night against visiting Pine View.
Well, maybe the real Shaq could have, but the Flyers’ Sina Tapasa — who Panthers’ head coach Chris Brinagh said has the presence of the former NBA great — had an impressive third quarter and seemed to be on the verge of taking over the game, but Pine View weathered the Big Storm, as Shaq himself might put it, to emerge with a 60-46 win.
The junior center scored 9 points in the quarter thanks to strong work on the glass and some nifty low-post moves.
“She’s got solid footwork and great hands, she just has to learn to put it all together,” Dixie head coach Ryan Forsey said, adding that Tapasa came to the school this summer from Oregon. “She has basketball in her blood … her two older sisters play Division I (college basketball).”
“We think we can exploit a high-post/low-post situation,” Forsey continued, “and when they went to their 3-2 zone, we had a good feeling we could put something together with her and we did.”
For his part, Brinagh said, “She’s got great feet and good post moves. We just told our girls to stay down and play hard.”
He added that Dixie has good guards, too, and said that for his team it again came down to defense, which the Panthers have excelled at throughout the season.
“If you play defense, it means you’re ready to be selfless and help each other out,” he said. “Everybody goes out in the summer and works on their offense. Defensively, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice for your teammates.
“If you play great defense, offensively you’ve got confidence you need.”
An evenly played first quarter ended with the Panthers’ Sophia Jensen penetrating the lane and banking home a shot just before the buzzer to give her team a 16-12 lead.
Pine View then held the Flyers to one basket in the first 4:22 of the second quarter, while scoring nine. In fact, it was the only basket for Dixie in the quarter; the rest of their 9 points came via free throws.
And yet, the Panthers outscored them from the line, hitting 8 of 10 in the quarter.
Averi Papa closed out the first half with a nice move inside for a bucket to beat the buzzer, which gave Pine View a 32-21 lead going into the locker room.
Dixie made its run as the second half began thanks to a couple of turnovers by the Panthers sandwiched around Emily Lemke’s jumper in the lane and Kalli Beckstrom’s three-pointer, but Pine View’s Saraven Allen converted an offensive rebound into two points.
Tapasa scored on a strong inside move and was fouled. She made the free throw to bring her team within five points.
She dominated the middle part of the third quarter, especially on the offensive glass. She also drew fouls under the rim and would go on to hit 5 of 7 shots from the free throw line in the quarter.
Pine View’s Papa countered with a sweet move inside, but Tapasa came back with an bucket at the rim. Her final free throw of the quarter narrowed the deficit to six. Teammate Sina Schwalger then drove the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup that cut the lead to 41-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Dixie hung with the visitors through the first half of the quarter until Pine View’s Claire Newby hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to stretch the lead to 49-41. After a free throw by Jensen, Newby went coast to coast, knifing through Dixie’s defense for a layup and an 11-point lead.
Allen put the game out of reach on back-to-back layups, one off a long outlet pass and the other a slashing drive through the lane.
She led all scorers with 21 points, while Newby rang up 14, including three three-pointers.
Beckstrom led Dixie with 13 points. Tapasa was next with nine, and Joslyn Bundy added 8, including a pair of threes.
“We did a lot of things very well, but it came down to youth versus experience,” Forsey said. “[Pine View] is not going to beat you with sets, they have athletes that have played together a long time and know how to play together.
“And they made shots when they had to, they made their free throws and executed down the stretch.”
Assessing his team’s performance, Forsey said, “I was definitely encouraged with how well we played. There are things we can fix: we missed a few passes, a couple of key turnovers and some silly fouls.”
It was the Region 9 opener for Dixie, whose overall record dropped to 6-7. Its next game is Jan. 9 at Canyon View.
Pine View won for the sixth straight time, improving its region record to 2-0 and overall record to 7-1. The Panthers host Hurricane on Jan. 9.
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