ST. GEORGE — On the second night of region play, the Cedar Reds traveled south to take on the Dixie Flyers. Cedar stuck to their brand of basketball, slowing the game down while controlling the tempo, resulting in a halftime score of 21-16 in the Flyer’s favor. Dixie played much faster in the second half and won 45-32.
The first quarter was a slow one, with only 13 points scored in eight minutes of basketball and Cedar leading 8-5 at the end of the first. Cedar seemed to lull the Flyers to sleep on offense. They continued to move the ball until they were able to get a good look at the basket and Dixie had some mental lapses early.
“I did not want to get in the running game with them (Dixie),”Cedar head coach Mark Esplin said of the pace. “They want to score in the seventies; I want to hold teams down in the forties. We got the tempo we wanted, we just didn’t execute at the end. We were patient enough I thought. We had opportunities to get some good shots, and we turned it over instead of finishing it.”
Combine the slow pace with Dixie’s inability to make shots in the first half, and it was a gritty game for both teams.
“We had to grind that one out,” Dixie head coach Tyler Roberts said. “That’s one thing that we can do, we can do both. Of course we like an uptempo game, but we have a lot of half court sets that we can run and be patient. Really we just weren’t hitting shots in the first half. I’d take them all over again, but we weren’t hitting.”
A big change came when Dixie got back to what they were known for last season: they switched to a zone in the second quarter and were able to stifle the Cedar offense.
The Reds only scored eight points in the second quarter and six points in the third. The Flyers also put on some pressure in the full court, which led to more Cedar turnovers.
“We turned it over to many times,” Esplin said. “Nineteen turnovers. They have nine points off turnovers and eight off second chance baskets. So out of 21 of their points, 17 of them came from us being lazy basically – not taking care of the basketball.”
Dixie was up six going into the fourth quarter, but a big boost came around the halfway mark of the quarter when the Flyers found Noah Lemke for two alley-oops within a minute of each other. Both those plays gave Dixie the momentum to close out the game.
“It’s awesome, we practice those all the time,” Lemke said. “It’s just nice to know that my guards are ready, and they throw me it. They throw a good pass, and it always gets the crowd hyped. It gives us momentum.”
Roberts said they had been watching film on plays where their guards drove middle and attracted the help defense, leaving Lemke open. The connection was there tonight, and it acted as a late boost for the Flyers.
Dixie had their best offensive quarter in the fourth, which extended the lead, helping them get the win by a final sore of 45-32.
At the end of the game, the big adjustment that stood out was the switch to zone for Dixie.
“We knew that we were going to mix it up defensively against them, but I think they kind of struggled a little bit against our zone there so we stuck with it,” Roberts said. “I think the biggest thing was defense. Anytime you hold a team to 32 points you have a pretty good shot at winning.”
Esplin spoke about the Reds struggles with the zone after the game.
“We were kind of lazy cutting,” he said. “We didn’t flash hard to the high post which I think we could have got some looks, and we didn’t move the basketball quick enough. If you’re going to beat that zone, you’ve got to move it, but in their defense they play the zone really well.”
Dixie follows up the win with three games in three consecutive days as a part of the Pine View tournament at Dixie State. They will take on some tough teams, but Roberts is ready for it and excited. The Flyers will get a break afterward for the holidays, which will give them a chance to reset and get ready for the region season to speed up.
Esplin also spoke about the improvements his team needs to make. They have a break until Dec. 26, when their own tournament will start. They will also play three straight games in three days.
Region 9 play will start back up on Jan. 7 with boys games and Jan. 8 for girls games.
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