ST. GEORGE – Trevor Hill wasn’t having his best night, but one big play changed everything for him and his teammates Monday.
Hill stole a Cal Baptist pass and dunked it home for the go-ahead basket with 1:04 left in overtime to help Dixie State defeat the Lancers 68-65 Monday night in the Burns Arena. The DSU senior guard had made just 4 of 18 shots before the crucial play, but there was no doubt as he raced into the front court that he would jam it home uncontested.
“Trevor made, what, 5 of 19 in the game?” DSU coach Jon Judkins said. “He’s a better shooter than that, a much better shooter than that. But they did a good job of defense on him. Still, he made a huge play.”
At the time, with 1:04 left in the overtime and the score tied at 65-65, the Trailblazers were still hurting from blowing a 12-point lead in the last five minutes of regulation. Dixie State had not led since the opening seconds of overtime, with Cal Baptist owning the ball and a two-point lead going into the final moments.
But after a missed 3-pointer by the Lancers, Brandon Simister was fouled. The Blazers’ top free throw shooter buried both ends of the two-shot foul to tie the game at 65-65 with 1:25 to go. CBU worked the perimeter, a mistake with Hill lurking. He anticipated a cross court pass and stole it cleanly. As the crowd of about 4,000 rose to the occasion, Hill threw down a two-handed jam that made it 67-65.
The two teams exchanged misses in the next minute before Cal Baptist took a timeout to draw up a potential tying play. Lancer guard Jordan Heading then took a screen and drove into the lane. Switching on defense, DSU center Austin Montgomery found himself guarding Heading with time running out. Heading banged into Montgomery and threw up a shot that Montgomery easily blocked to preserve the lead with six seconds left.
“I was able to stay in front of him a little bit and just tried to keep my hands up,” Montgomery said. “He just basically shot it into my hands. I’m not really a shot blocker. I get lucky sometimes when they throw it into my hands.”
Zac Hunter hit one free throw with 2.5 seconds left to help Dixie State ice the key PacWest Conference victory.
“You don’t want to be playing your best basketball right now, but you want to be getting better,” Judkins said. “These last couple of games, we’ve done that. This one was pretty good. One of our goals this year was to beat these guys here.”
This would have been a tough one to lose had Dixie State not held on as the Trailblazers dominated the second half. Dixie led just 36-33 five minutes into the second, but then went on an 8-0 run. Simister hit a 3-pointer and Montgomery had a dunk in the run and it was capped by a Wade Miller mid-range jumper as DSU held a 44-33 advantage with 13:37 left in the game.
The lead stayed in that range for the next nine minutes, and when Montgomery tipped in a Zac Hunter miss, it was 56-44 with 4:45 left in the contest.
“At that point, I think we stopped attacking,” Judkins said. “The same thing happened to us at their place – we outplayed them the whole game, and then they got hot and hit some 3s and we started settling, shooting some bad shots.”
With the game seemingly in hand, the Blazers went cold. One Hill free throw was all DSU could manage over the next three minutes as Cal Baptist’s 10-1 run pulled it within 57-54 when Bul Kuol hit a trey with 1:31 to play.
Hill momentarily stopped the bleeding with a finger-roll layup that just barely crawled over the rim, making it 59-54 with 1:11 left. After the teams exchanged missed shots, the Lancers cut it to 59-57 on a 3-pointer by Jordan Todd with 26 seconds left.
Hill then was fouled and made it 60-57 with 17 seconds to play. CBU finally completed the comeback when Gabe Taylor hit a deep trey from the angle right with three seconds left. Simister’s half-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark.
“We wanted to foul there, but the guy guarding on the switch didn’t know we wanted to foul, didn’t get the message,” Simister said. “They made a nice shot, though.”
In the OT, Hill started it right with a 3-pointer. But Cal Baptist matched just 20 seconds later on a trey by Todd. It stayed at 63-63 for the next two minutes until Heading hit a jumper with 2:19 left in OT. Simister’s free throws a moment later would set up the game-changing steal and dunk by Hill.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Simister said. “Anytime you can defend your home court against a good team, it’s huge. We’re going to enjoy it tonight, and we’re grateful for the big crowd and everyone that came out. But we know we’ve got to come out and take care of business the rest of the season. Our ultimate goal is to be champions.”
Hill led DSU with 16 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Simister had 14 points and 8 assists. Hunter scored 11 and Montgomery had 10, with both players collecting nine rebounds.
The Blazers only hit 29 of 66 shots for 39 percent. They helped keep Cal Baptist in the game by making just 12 of 24 free throws.
“You’re not going to beat a lot of good teams shooting free throws like that,” Judkins said. “That’s what we’re working on tomorrow.”
Dixie State did force the Lancers into 16 turnovers, and committed just nine.
The Trailblazers leapfrog the Lancers in the PacWest standings with the win. DSU, 9-6 overall and 6-2 in league play, is in second place in the PacWest, trailing only Azusa Pacific, which is 7-1 in conference. APU’s only conference loss is to Dixie State. The Lancers fall to 5-2 in league and 12-3 overall.
DSU resumes league play with a road trip to the Bay Area later this week. The Blazers are at Notre Dame de Namur on Saturday (3 p.m. PST) and will play four games in eight days during the critical stretch.
Stats: DSU 68, CBU 65 (F/OT)
Cal Baptist 57, Dixie State 50
DSU led 47-46 after Ali Franks powered inside and drew a foul. Her three-point play put the Blazers ahead and she then stole a Lancer pass and set up teammate Tramina Jordan for a 3-pointer and a four-point lead … but Jordan’s shot rimmed out and the rest of the game would belong to Cal Baptist.
The Lancers clamped down on defense after that and went on an 11-1 run to turn that slim deficit into a 57-48 lead. Dixie State would not make another field goal, going 0 for 12 the final eight minutes of the game, also committing three turnovers. A free throw by Ashlee Burge and two by Franks are all Dixie State could manage the rest of the game as DSU was outscored 13-6 in the fourth quarter.
It was a team-wide epidemic as the Blazers made just 18 of 63 shots in the contest (29 percent), including just 6 for 25 from beyond the arc.
Franks and Taylor Moeaki led DSU with 12 points each. Kristin Baldwin had eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Tori Mitchell led CBU with 22 points.
Dixie State (7-8 overall and 3-5 in the PacWest) plays again Saturday afternoon with a road game at Notre Dame de Namur. Cal Baptist improves to 8-7 overall and 5-2 in the PWC with the win.
Stats: CBU 57, DSU 50
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