Region 9 boys basketball: Pine View beats Hurricane and heads into playoffs on a roll

ST. GEORGE — On their senior night, the Hurricane Tigers came out with some energy, but the Pine View Panthers were able to hold them off to get the win 66-58. Ryan Hopper had a big night for the Panthers with 25 points, while Dax Dayley had 21 points for the Tigers.

Pine View responded in the second quarter, but Hurricane still had the lead by one at halftime. Hopper came up big in the second half and played a big role in the win for the Panthers. He was doing it all: rebounding, making good passes and making the right plays.

Pine View ended the season on a high note, winning seven of their last nine games, including a win against the Tigers on the road. They are definitely going into the postseason on a hot streak.

“It’s big,” head coach Ryan Eves said. “Second half of region was 5-2, that one nasty stint started after Christmas break. Even the games we’ve lost, overtime and a buzzer beater, so I’m happy with it. I think we’re right where we need to be, hopefully we get a five seed.”

Hurricane is on the other end of the spectrum, losing eight of their last eleven games of the season. Assistant coach Jay Jones spoke about the attitude in the locker room after the loss to Pine View.

“The guys are a little down because they wanted to win on senior night,” Jones said. “They wanted to go out and give the home crowd a victory, but its not like it’s the last game of the season. We still get to fight, play another game, and at this point it’s whatever we make of it. We can be out first game, or we can get hot and make it all the way to the championship game.”

Pine View at Hurricane, Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 13, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News / Cedar City News

Pine View senior Hopper had his best offensive performance of the season. During the slump that the Panthers had, Hopper was never a breakout scorer. He is currently the fifth leading scorer on the team, with the four ahead of him being the other starters.

He said the offensive output has increased as a result of his confidence.

“Towards the beginning of the season I was just not confident in my shot,” Hopper said. “I started putting up more shots, putting in the work, and then I started shooting more in games, which helped me get more confident with my shot.”

Hopper is ready for the playoffs and says that while his team was a little scared last season as juniors, the core group of seniors is ready and experienced when it comes to the state playoffs.

“I feel like it’s pretty high,” Hopper said of his team’s confidence. “We all know who we could play, what they’re capable of, and we know what we’re capable of now.”

Hopper said that the biggest difference between the Panthers in the middle of the season and now is their execution. They are passing up good shots for great shots and making the right plays.

Eves added that he is ready to play anyone, regardless of their seeding. The Panthers could possibly get a top five seed and host a second-round playoff game, but either way they’ll have their first game of the tournament at home.

With the tournament about to start, the Panthers are in need of the rest.

“Suds needs it, pretty much everyone in the starting five needs it,” Hopper said of the break before their next game. “That’s what happens towards the end of the season – everyone is starting to get hurt, so this week is really big to recover and have some days off.”

For the Tigers, they have been the topic of discussion around the new RPI ranking this season as they started off strong but have not been playing well as of late. When asked about scheduling their season around the new RPI ranking, Jones said they did not.

“We just happened to go to a tournament that we’ve always went to and played some really good teams out of Arizona,” Jones said. “Fortunately we were able to come away with wins. We beat a really good Juan Diego team and a really good Stansbury team early. When I look at the standings, I need those teams to keep winning. … It only helps our position. We just lucked up with the schedule we had and were able to get the wins we needed early on to position ourselves right where we need to be.”

The Tigers did just that and will benefit with a likely home game in the first round despite their late season struggles. The biggest thing for them going into the postseason will be rest.

“You may start the season at 100%, (but) by the end of the season you are not at 100%,” Jones said. “You may think you are, but your body is not at 100%, so even if it’s two days rest or three days rest, every little bit helps. It’ll be really good for us to get a couple days off, just do some shooting in the gym and go over some plays.”

The final RPI rankings will be released on Saturday morning when the seedings and matchups for the playoffs will be announced.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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