ST. GEORGE – Dixie State shut down Hawaii-Hilo in the second half, turning a close game into a blowout and a basketball game into a coronation party for the school’s new 3-point champion – Brandon Simister.
Down 36-34 at the half, the Blazers owned the Vulcans after intermission, outscoring them 55-19 en route to an 89-55 home win at Burns Arena Saturday night. Simister, the skinny kid from Desert Hills High School, hit four 3-pointers in the game, giving him 147 during his four-year career at DSU, one more than previous record-holder Tom Whitehead.
During a timeout after his fourth trey, Burns public address announcer Roger Christensen announced the milestone and Simister received an ovation from the crowd, his coaches and his teammates.
“Growing up, I always wanted to play basketball in college, but I had no idea I’d be able to have a career like I’ve had so far,” said Simister, who led the Blazers in scoring with 20 points in the game. “It’s been a huge blessing to be able to play with so many good players and to be able to play for Coach (Jon) Judkins. I just have a feeling of gratitude more than anything. I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”
Judkins, who recruited Simister in 2009 when he was a high school sophomore, had nothing but positive things to say about his senior guard.
“What a player,” he said. “He’s had a great career here and he’s not done. He’s going to keep getting better and better. We saw him in high school and I love recruiting local kids. I’ve got a lot of them on my team – I want some more, if you’re out there. But I’m happy that he stuck around and stayed here. He could have gone somewhere else, maybe a Division I, but he wouldn’t have played. Here, he’s playing a lot and he’s having fun, and he’s playing really, really well.”
Simister graduated from Desert Hills in 2011, when current teammate Quincy Mathews was a freshman at the school.
“I used to watch him when I was a freshman and try and form my shot after his because it was just so nice,” Mathews said. “He’s the best shooter I’ve seen, played with. I’m so happy for him. We gave him a water shower in the locker room with our water bottles. It’s just so cool. I can’t imagine hitting that many 3s in a four-year span.”
Simister and his teammates got lit up a little in the locker room at halftime with the lowly Vulcans holding that slim two-point edge.
“Coach kind of got after us a little bit, as he should have,” Simister said. “We weren’t playing with good energy in the first half. And then Trevor (Hill) called a huddle and we said we just need to play together and play with more energy and have fun.”
It must have been fun as the Trailblazers opened the second half by forcing turnovers, throwing down slams and hitting deep balls. Zac Hunter tied the game at 36-36 with a jam off a Simister assist just 13 seconds into the second. Two minutes later, Simister hit his second 3-pointer of the night to give Dixie State a 41-38 lead. That sparked what would end up as a 16-2 run for the Blazers that turned a tie game into a 54-40 blowout. DSU had four layups during the stretch.
“Give Hilo credit for coming out and throwing the first punch and having some success with the 3-ball in the first half,” Judkins said. “When we started to execute our game plan with doubling the ball and running them off the 3-point line, we’re a good defensive team and we’re a good offensive team. And a lot of those were layups, where we got tips and we got steals.”
If Hawaii-Hilo was going to make a run or even show signs of fight in the second half, it had to happen at that point. It didn’t.
Dixie State would go on another run, pushing the lead all the way out to 77-50 after consecutive treys by Simister and a pair of free throws by the senior guard. After his second, with 4:50 left in the game, nine new players subbed into the game and the announcement was made about his school record.
Simister was then able to remove the plastic facemask he has been wearing to protect a broken nose and receive congratulations from his teammates on the bench. Simister’s line for the game was 20 points, 4 of 6 3-pointers, six assists, two steals and two rebounds.
Dixie State also got a good game from Hill, who had eight points, six rebounds, four steals and four assists. Kyler Neilson added 14 points and three assists and Austin Montgomery had 10 points and two boards.
The Blazers shot just 39 percent in the first half, but made 21 of 37 shots in the second half (57 percent) in outscoring the Vulcans 55-19. DSU was also outrebounded 22-16 before intermission, but had a 26-14 advantage on the glass after the break.
Dixie State got its 11th straight win with the blowout, improving to 17-6 overall and 14-2 in the PacWest Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of both Cal Baptist and Point Loma for first place.
Hilo, which falls to 6-15 overall and 5-9 in the PWC, was led in scoring by center Devin Johnson, who had 19 points and nine rebounds.
Stats: DSU 89, UHH 55
DSU 72, UHH 52
The Trailblazers (11-12, 7-9) had to shake off a slow start as the Vulcans opened a 10-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game. DSU trimmed the deficit to one-point on two different occasions in the first quarter when Maile Richardson and Tramina Jordan each knocked down a triple, but UHH responded both times to take a 16-12 lead.
Dixie State clamped down defensively in the second quarter, holding the Vulcans to just nine points in the frame. Meanwhile, DSU poured in 20 points during the quarter, led by seven points by Ashlee Burge, to take a 32-25 lead into the halftime break.
The Trailblazers picked up where they left off in the third quarter, scoring the first 16 points of the frame to build a 48-25 lead. DSU connected on four triples during the stretch, including two treys by Keslee Stevenson. The Vulcans countered with an 11-0 run to trim the lead to 48-36 before DSU ended the frame with three free throws to push the lead back to 51-36.
The teams traded baskets through the first half of the fourth quarter before Dixie State pulled away for good with a 12-4 run over the final five minutes of the game to push the score to the final tally of 72-52.
Dixie State shot 41 percent (25-of-60) from the field, 32 percent (10-of-31) from 3-point range, and 70 percent (12-of-17) from the free throw line. Jordan led three DSU players in double figures with 13 points, while Matti Ventling added 11 points and Richardson finished with 10 points.
The Trailblazers continue their three-game homestand next Saturday against Hawai’i Pacific. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
Stats: DSU 72, UHH 52
PacWest Conference Men’s Basketball Standings (conference, overall)
Dixie State 14-2, 17-6
Cal Baptist 12-3, 19-4
Point Loma 13-4, 19-7
Azusa Pacific 12-4, 16-8
Chaminade 9-6, 14-8
Concordia 9-7, 15-9
Hawaii Pacific 8-7, 13-10
Academy of Art 8-8, 9-13
Hawaii Hilo 5-9, 6-15
Holy Names 5-11, 9-18
Dominican 4-11, 5-17
Biola 4-12, 10-14
Notre Dame de Namur 4-12, 5-16
Fresno Pacific 3-14, 5-20
PacWest Conference Women’s Basketball Standings (conference, overall)
Hawaii Pacific 14-1, 20-2
Azusa Pacific 14-2, 23-3
Concordia 10-6, 13-9
Dominican 9-6, 15-8
Cal Baptist 9-6, 12-11
Point Loma 10-7, 15-9
Fresno Pacific 9-8, 11-14
Biola 8-8, 11-11
Dixie State 7-9, 11-12
Notre Dame de Namur 6-10, 9-15
Academy of Art 5-11, 6-18
Hawaii Hilo 4-10, 6-11
Holy Names 3-13, 4-20
Chaminade 2-13, 2-15
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