ST. GEORGE – Dixie could have done it the easy way. With last-place Cedar coming to town on Friday, no one would have blamed the Flyers if they had not given full effort in Wednesday’s road game at Desert Hills. After all, with a two-game lead and the Redmen coming up, a loss wouldn’t have hurt Dixie at all.
But the Flyers didn’t roll over at D-Hills, instead gutting out a 61-48 road win to clinch the Region 9 championship and No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs.
“This game meant a lot to these kids,” Dixie coach Ryan Cuff said. “They wanted to win it outright and they wanted to do it against a really good team that’s playing really well. It feels good. I’m really proud of them.”
The win essentially renders Friday’s home game meaningless for Dixie, except that the Flyers can become the first team since 2008 to go unbeaten in Region 9 play.
Meanwhile, Hurricane clinched its berth in the 2018 4A state tournament with a 59-53 road win against Cedar. A couple of sophomores led the way for the Tigers, who are 6-5 in region play.
And Pine View put a dent in the playoff plans of Canyon View by stunning the Falcons 56-55 Wednesday night at PVHS. It was yet another sophomore that saved the day in that one.
Here’s a look at the night’s action:
Dixie 61, Desert Hills 48
“We almost played their game in the first half, just basically trading baskets, and that’s not something we wanted to do,” Cuff said. “We talked to the kids at halftime about getting a stop on defense, and then getting consecutive stops. And then once we got a lead we pulled the ball out and slowed the game down. I think that frustrated them.”
One of the biggest plays early in the game came at the first-quarter buzzer. With the score tied 15-15, Thunder guard Tucker Peterson nailed a deep trey that came just a split-second after the buzzer, leaving the game knotted after one. Dixie then outscored Desert Hills 15-10 in the second quarter to take a five-point advantage into intermission.
“In the third quarter, we were able to beat their little 1-3-1 trap and get some layups or get to the foul line,” Cuff said. “We’re a lot bigger than we were last year and we were able to throw over the top a few times. That helped a lot.”
Behind big shots from Tanner Cuff and Carson Bottema, Dixie pushed the lead to 45-38 at the end of the third and it grew to 52-40 with six minutes to play. With Dixie playing keep-away on offense, the Thunder had no recourse but to foul. The strategy worked somewhat as the Flyers made just 12 of 25 charity shots (48 percent). But Desert Hills wasn’t much better, making just 9 of 16 (56 percent).
“The guys know we need to do better than that,” Coach Cuff said. “But that’s what I love about this team. They’re not satisfied. We didn’t help ourselves at the line, but they know that and they will work on that. They’re always trying to get better.”
Dixie hit just enough free throws that the Thunder couldn’t get the lead under eight the final six minutes as Dixie took the region crown from the defending-champ Thunder.
Bottema had 17 points and Cuff added 16 for the Flyers, who are 19-3 overall along with their 11-0 region record. Payton Wilgar added 10 points, but the trio of Bottema, Cuff and Wilgar made just 6 of 16 free throws in the game.
Desert Hills, 15-6 and 8-3, was led by Peterson’s 14 points and seven rebounds. Ryan Marz had nine points and Trey Allred hit two 3-pointers and finished with eight points.
Dixie closes out the regular season with that Cedar game Friday night at DHS, while the Thunder close the regular season on the road at Canyon View. Both teams will get a home playoff game on Feb. 24.
Hurricane 59, Cedar 53
“Coach (Russ) Beck had a great game plan against us,” said Hurricane head coach Todd Langston, who is still recovering from a fall off a ladder that broke several ribs and lacerated his kidney. “We didn’t play well early on and they had us by 10. Somehow we figured out a way to pull this one out.”
The Redmen played a triangle-and-two defense against the Tigers, with both of the “two” guarding Jackson Last. The result was three defenders guarding the other four Hurricane offensive players.
“You’d think we’d be able to score 4-on-3 like that, but we weren’t,” Langston said. “Cedar’s whole plan was to not let Jackson beat them. We told our guys at halftime that someone else was going to have to step up and hit shots. Our two sophomores, Brice Thomas and TJ Minor, did it and that was basically the difference on the game.”
Last ended up with a decent stat line – 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals – but the bulk of the points came from the two sophs. Thomas led all scorers with 17 points (with four 3-pointers) and Minor ended up with 13 points.
“We need guys to step up and hit open shots when they’re there,” Langston said. “We knew the opportunities would be there and we needed them not to be nervous or passive.”
Dallin Grant’s 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first quarter had put the Redmen ahead 16-6. Two minutes into the second quarter, Ethan Boettcher hit a trey and the lead had grown to 21-7. Unfortunately for Cedar, Boettcher’s trey would be the last points the Redmen would score in the quarter.
Hurricane put together a 10-0 run over the next five-plus minutes of game play. It started with a pair of free throws by Last after a steal. Bryant Mangelson then scored to cut it to 21-11 with 5:12 to play in the half. After a dry stretch for both teams, Last scored four quick points to cut it to 21-15 with 1:18 to go in the half. The Tigers then closed the second quarter with a basket by Thomas to make it 21-17.
The third quarter also belonged to Hurricane. At 23-19, Thomas buried a trey and Russell Neild scored to give the Tigers a 24-23 lead with less than two minutes gone on the third. Cedar got the lead back on two free throws by Dallin Peterson, but Thomas struck again to make it a 27-25 Tigers edge.
It was 31-27 for the Tigers heading into the fourth quarter, but the game remained close. Cedar regained the lead at 46-45 with 3:09 to go on two free throws by Peterson. Thomas hit two more treys late in the game, but the Redmen stayed within striking distance on a trey by Treyton Tibbs and free throws by Boettcher.
Adam Heyrend gave Hurricane a 53-50 lead as the clock ran under 90 seconds, then he made it 54-51 a moment later with a free throw. At the line for his second shot, Heyrend missed, but Matthew Meyers got the offensive rebound. Hurricane then got it inside for a basket by Minor to push the lead out to 56-51 and effectively ice the win.
“We had some unforced turnovers and took some bad shots that helped them get back in the game,” Langston said. “Give Cedar credit, they battled back. We feel fortunate to get out of there with the win and we are very relieved to be in the playoffs.”
The Tigers, 12-9 overall and 6-5 in region play, will likely be the No. 3 seed from Region 9 and have to go on the road in first round of the playoffs. Hurricane can clinch that third seed with a win at home vs. Snow Canyon on Friday.
Cedar, 8-14 and 1-10, was led in scoring by Boettcher’s 14 points and Grant’s 11. The Redmen close out the regular season at Dixie on Friday night.
Pine View 56, Canyon View 55
“We had two home games to finish the year – let’s get these two for the seniors,” Pine View coach Ryan Eves said. “And our seniors (Jack O’Donnell and Michael Moten) played phenomenal tonight. They played the first half with confidence and we got Jack the ball in the right spots and he hit almost everything he put up there.”
O’Donnell was spectacular, finishing the night with 27 points. And Moten was very good as well, picking up four steals and nine points.
But it was a sophomore who saved the day for the Panthers.
Pine View had led by as many as 12, but the Falcons came roaring back behind the physical inside play of Brantzen Blackner. The senior guard completed the comeback two minutes into the fourth quarter by hitting a 3-pointer while being fouled by Moten. Blackner’s four-point play gave Canyon View its first lead since the first quarter at 49-47.
The game stayed tight the rest of the way. Sophomore Ryan Hopper made a mid-range jumper that tied it at 51-51. Moments later, Blackner put the Redmen ahead 55-54 on a power move inside with 40 seconds left on the clock.
Pine View tried to work it to O’Donnell, but Canyon View denied him the ball. Hopper drove the right side, was cut off, and spun left into the lane. He then calmly nailed an eight-foot lefty hook to give the Panthers a 56-55 lead with 20 seconds to go.
“As soon as he shot that, I knew it was in and I started running back on defense,” O’Donnell said of Hopper’s shot. “He does that spin to me every day in practice. I saw his guy cut him off and I knew he was spinning and I started running back because I knew it was in.”
Hopper, who only took two shot attempts in the game (making them both), said it was nothing unusual.
“My main job is ball pressure on defense and then handling the ball on offense,” he said. “Shooting’s not my first priority because I know my teammates can score. Jack had a huge night and I was just trying to get him the ball as much as I could. On that last play, Michael had the ball and he got cut off, so I curled and he got me the ball. The spin and left-handed shot was just natural.
“I was just playing ball. I knew we needed a bucket. I just saw the opportunity and I took it.”
With 20 seconds to go, the Falcons worked the ball to their star, Blackner. He was able to force his way inside. But his shot rolled off the rim. He also had two tip attempts before time expired, but neither was especially close and a long 3 try by Joey Lambeth came after the buzzer (and missed, anyway).
Pine View, 8-13 overall and 4-8 in region play, ended up with O’Donnell scoring 27, Moten nine, and Gavin Bateman and Connor Brooksby with eight each. The Panthers made three treys and hit 7 of 9 free throws.
Canyon View, 10-13 and 5-6, has lost three games straight. Blackner led his team with 26 points, while Trevor Farrow had 10. The Falcons made seven treys and hit just 5 of 9 freebies.
The Falcons now face a must-win game at home against Desert Hills on Friday, although they would still get the fourth seed if Snow Canyon loses at Hurricane. If the Falcons lose and the Warriors win Friday, there would likely be a play-in game next Tuesday at a yet-to-be-determined neutral site.
Dixie 61, Desert Hills 48
Hurricane 59, Cedar 53
Pine View 56, Canyon View 55
Region 9 Standings
Dixie 11-0, 19-3
Desert Hills 8-3, 15-6
Hurricane 6-5, 12-9
Canyon View 5-6, 10-13
Snow Canyon 4-7, 8-13
Pine View 4-8, 8-13
Cedar 1-10, 8-14
Cedar at Dixie
Desert Hills at Canyon View
Snow Canyon at Hurricane
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