ST. GEORGE — The Crimson Cliffs Mustangs went on a scoring frenzy to beat Spanish Fork 85-74 at home on Friday night.
After starting comparatively slow, the Mustangs exploded for 25 points in the third quarter and 26 in the fourth, spreading out a two-point halftime lead. The Dons matched Crimson’s early scoring, using a fast-break offense and long passes to open up the Mustangs’ defense, leaving open shooting opportunities that helped them keep pace. But the Mustangs solidified their defense in the second half and just got sharper as a whole, according to head coach Kasey Winters.
“You could tell there were some nerves and a little bit of indecisiveness in the first half,” Winters said. “I thought we settled down and played really well on both ends. We played better defense and rebounded better. We got some free throws, which I think helped us shoot a little bit better from the field in the second half.”
Winters said that after some shots started falling and the team built up some confidence, it got into a groove and started to shake off the first-game rust. Once they started to handle the Dons on both sides of the ball, it gave their shooters more chances and better windows to shoot. The Mustangs produced 18 defensive rebounds to return the ball to their offensive side of the court, including a team-leading five by junior Hudson Hawes.
Senior Trei Rockhill, who lead Crimson with 21 points on the night, landed three from beyond the arc in a span of just a few minutes, helping to expand the lead that got as wide as 21 in favor of the Mustangs.
The Mustangs shot 49% from the field, but was weighed down by a 6-for-23 effort from deep. They shot 64% on twos and 70% on 30 free throw opportunities. Sophomore Jordan Eaton went a perfect 7-for-7.
“We have guys that we know can shoot the ball,” Winters said. “The key for us is just playing together, trusting that someone’s going to get you a shot and you can get someone else a shot. When we play together and we move the ball and get some guys open, we have some guys that can really shoot the ball. It’s just whether we’re going to force shots or take good shots.”
For the efforts, the Mustangs came just one point shy of a school-record 86 in its brief history. They did so against Moapa Valley, Nevada on Dec. 13, 2019, in the program’s fourth-ever game.
As raw and unfamiliar as that game was, Winters said Thursday that the lack of preparedness going into this game was worse. Just like every other team in Utah, Crimson Cliffs entered their first game of the year with no more than a week of continuous practice in the wake of a suspension of most extracurricular activities from Nov. 9 to Nov. 23, due to the increase in COVID-19 rates.
“I told the guys I was more nervous for this game than I have been in a long time, just because of our lack of preparation and our lack of practice,” he said.
The Mustangs will have some time to practice before their next game Dec. 10 against American Leadership Academy in a tournament hosted by Spanish Fork.
Here are short recaps of the rest of Friday night’s boys basketball games involving Region 9 teams:
Desert Hills 65, Sky View 61
The Thunder improved to 2-0, fending off a late comeback attempt by Sky View to hold on and sweep the North vs. South Challenge hosted by Pine View High School.
One day after posting 24 points, Mason Landdeck scored 23, including a 12-for-16 effort from the free-throw line. Reggie Newby added 14 points and a team-leading six boards, his second game in a row hitting that mark. Landdeck also added four rebounds and four assists.
The Thunder fought off a 20-point fourth quarter from the Bobcats, in part from Landdeck’s effort to draw fouls. Sky View sent him to the line eight times in the final period.
While Desert Hills sat in the driver’s seat the majority of the game, Sky View lingered in the rear view the entire time and kept the contest close.
“Good, bad. Bad, good. Kind of back-and-forth a little bit,” Desert Hills coach Chris Allred said of the game. “There were times where we did a pretty good job and there were times where we had some mental lapses.”
Desert Hills gets nearly a week to sharpen up, next playing at Salem Hills on Dec. 10.
Canyon View 56, Ben Lomond 54
The Falcons completed a fourth-quarter comeback to force overtime and eventually walk away with a slim two-point win over Ben Lomond.
Canyon View entered the fourth quarter down by 7, and got down by as many as 13 in the final frame. But they clawed back in, tying the affair on a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Tyler Maine.
After Ben Lomond hit the first field goal in overtime, Hayden Zobell hit a three of his own to give Canyon View its first lead of the game. The Falcons stretched the lead out to four, and the two possessions were enough to force a walk-off when Ben Lomond got within two, but with less than 5 seconds on the clock and no timeouts remaining to interrupt play.
The Falcons, now 1-1, missed a buzzer-beater to tie on Thursday night that would have forced overtime against Bear River.
Canyon View next plays Saturday afternoon against Gunnison Valley in their final matchup of the Bear River Winter Classic.
Dixie 72, Richfield 38
The Dixie Flyers ran away with an easy win over Richfield at Snow College. The Flyers used fast breaks and a quick tempo to keep the Wildcats on their heels all night and open scoring chances, of which they took full advantage.
Dixie shot 65% for the game, including 7-for-14 from the three-point line. Isaac Finlinson tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Ethan Bennett added 18 points. The teams ended the first quarter close at 14-10 in favor of Dixie, but the Flyers took the second half 24-6 to enter halftime up 38-16.
“We were introduced to a whole new level of getting up and down the court tonight,” Richfield coach Rand Janes told MidUtahRadio. “It’s fun to watch, terrible to coach against.”
Dixie next takes on South Sevier in Monroe on Saturday.
Ridgeline 57, Pine View 50
The Pine View Panthers, the hosts of the North vs. South Challenge, failed to collect a win in the event, dropping their second game in a row to open the season.
The Panthers were held to 22 points in the entire second half as they fell to Ridgeline 57-50, one day after losing to Sky View, 65-51.
Bensen Shepherd led the way for the Panthers with 16 points, while Joshua Bice ranked second on the team in scoring with 10.
The Panthers will seek their first win at Payson on Tuesday. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
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