ST. GEORGE — After only scoring four points in the first quarter, the Flyers made a stand in the second quarter to pull within seven of the Panthers.
Heading into the fourth quarter Pine View was only up three, but they were able to hold off the Flyers to get the home win 53-45. Tessa Taylor led the Panthers with 13 points while Leiani Tonga had 11 points.
“It was a good team win,” Panthers head coach Ben Luce said. “I expected it to be tough against Dixie. Dixie is a good team, they’re fast, quick and it’s a tough matchup for us. We’ve got two starters out, our point guard has been out for a month and we had girls step up who don’t play as many minutes.”
For the Flyers, their first quarter performance was reminiscent of their game against Snow Canyon last week. They scored four points in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game and scored only three points in the first quarter of their game against Snow Canyon. Dixie’s offense woke up in the second quarter, and as their defense started to get stops and cause turnovers, it fueled their offense.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s just a mental approach, it’s just a mental barrier that we have to fight through,” head coach Ryan Forsey said of the slow starts. “We just have to keep fighting, that’s all there is to it. We’ll find a way, hopefully sooner than later.”
The difference between the first quarter and the second for Pine View was their ability to break the Flyers’ press defense. With starting guard Sophie Jensen out the Panthers are missing a great ball handler and it showed. Jensen has not played since the North Sanpete game on Dec. 14 when she suffered a concussion.
Dixie set up in their 2-2-1 full-court press from the jump and sped up Pine View, forcing turnovers throughout the second half.
“We wanted to pressure their guards,” Forsey said. “They have good guards but down Sophie Jensen, we thought we could maybe get into them a little bit. They were down two starters and had some injuries so it was a part of the game plan to try and pressure their guards, see if we could force them into any early turnovers.”
The Flyers did just that, but the Panthers have been pressured in their last four games. This is something they have been working on in practice and are looking to improve on going forward.
“We’ve been working on it,” Luce said. “We’ve been pressed for four games in a row. That’s just a mental thing right now that we’ve got to get over. We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to the press.”
With Jensen out the Panthers have needed other players to step up in her absence. Tessa Taylor was one of those players against Dixie. She started and shot the ball with confidence from the start, finishing the game with 13 points.
“She started us off with a couple threes and that’s who she is, that’s what she’s good for,” Luce said. “She’s a shot of vitamin B off the bench, some energy, good shots and she shot with confidence.”
Not only is it good for the coach to know that he can rely on his bench players to step up, but it’s reassuring for the other players as well.
“It’s huge, it means a lot,” guard Alex Olson said. “We know we have people behind us and our whole team can come in and contribute.”
This was a much needed win for the Panthers who are coming off of a tough loss to Cedar last week. They did hand Snow Canyon their first loss of the season last Wednesday, but Olson said this win was big. The Panthers play Canyon View in Cedar City on Friday.
As for Dixie, this is their second straight heartbreaking loss. They dug themselves a hole early in both games but the fight they showed is something positive they have taken away.
“We just have to continue to keep fighting and clawing,” Forsey said. “We have a size disadvantage and we just have to bring the intensity from the jump and right now we’re getting the intensity in the second quarter. We outscore them in the second and third quarter and we only lose by two in that fourth quarter. There is no secret, we just have to find a way.”
The Flyers are back at home against Hurricane on Friday but their schedule does not get much easier. They play Desert Hills on the road next Wednesday.
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