UPDATED: ‘The heart of the team:’ Pavlica leads Dixie women’s hoops in Division I debut

ST. GEORGE — London Pavlica was ready to play basketball at the Division I level.

London Pavlica reaches for the score for Dixie State in the team’s home opener win over Park University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

The junior guard for Dixie State threatened a triple-double, leading the game in four categories with 24 points, nine rebounds, three steals and eight assists as the Trailblazers ran away with an opening day win over Park University on Saturday, 81-52.

Pavlica carved up the Buccaneers defense, using her speed to create bountiful and open opportunities for herself. On the rare occasion Park successfully tamed her, she more often than not found a teammate with a wide-open chance. She landed 10 of her 15 field goal attempts, including two of four from the arc. She crashed the rim, sank from downtown and was a presence on defense as well. Eight of her rebounds came on defense.

Pavlica scored three times from the post – twice along the key, once from the left-wing inside the arc and twice from the perimeter. Simply put, she was all over the place.

“She might not go get 24 every night, but that’s who she is,” Dixie head coach J.D. Gustin said. “She guards. She’s the heart of our team. She’s really worked on her game this summer in terms of being a confident scorer. I love how she handles it. She gets us into things. I don’t know if she’ll go flirt with a triple-double every night — she might, actually. I didn’t think it was a special game for her. I thought she just did what she is.”

The Trailblazers started slow, letting Park jump out to an early 16-9 lead in the first. Dixie entered the second trailing by three, 20-17. But senior guard Keslee Stevenson, who scored the first basket in the DI era for the Trailblazers, went back-to-back with Pavlica on a pair of 3-pointers early in the second quarter to jump out 23-20.

Dixie would not trail for the rest of the game. It built its lead out to 10 points by halftime and ran away with it in a 26-point third quarter — of which Pavlica had 11 — outscoring Park by 16 in the period. It coasted through the fourth quarter, expanding its lead by three points more before the final horn.

The Trailblazers also got contributions from freshman Brooke Vance, who was second on the team with 12 points. Ten different Blazers scored in the game as head coach Gustin tested his depth and got players some action.

“We used this as an opportunity for everybody to play,” Gustin said. “Even in the first half, we played certain minutes that we normally won’t most likely [in the future]. We just want to give everybody to get out there and play and have fun. They’ve all been working their tails off.”

Park University at Dixie State Basketball, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

That work hasn’t been coming in games though. Gustin wanted to reward his players for sticking through the challenges that COVID-19 brought on the program.

The home opener finally came after three previous instances of the event were canceled due to COVID-19 positive tests, both within the DSU program and those of their opponents. The Trailblazers were originally scheduled to begin play on Nov. 25 against Life Pacific, but did not have enough eligible players, losing that one, their big-ticket preseason draw of BYU on Dec. 1 and their next scheduled game against Saint Katherine on Dec. 9. Dixie State is the last Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball program to begin play.

“I’ve been competing against my teammates for three or four months, so it was good to get out and compete against other people,” Pavlica said. “It just gets a little bit unmotivating at times because you don’t know, ‘Is this game going to get canceled? What am I training for?’ in a way.”

After the men’s win at University of Denver on Saturday to improve to 3-0, both basketball programs are undefeated as members of Division I.

The women play again on Dec. 16 against Portland State. With all cancellations factored, Dixie State is scheduled to play in only four preseason games before beginning their first season in the WAC.

Updated Dec. 12, 9 p.m.: Additional quotes, stats and additional color from the game.

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

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