RICHFIELD — Dixie head coach Tyler Roberts paced back and forth outside the locker room. He hugged his daughter and calmed himself down.
After expectations to win their second straight state championship, what could he tell his team that was eliminated in just the quarterfinal? He was just as stunned as they were.
“Still kind of shocked,” Roberts told St. George News. “It’s hard. Ultimately, you feel bad because the seniors are done. You feel bad for the seniors, just let them know you love them. Life’s not fair either.”
Roberts watched his Flyers take an early lead in a dominant first quarter. Isaac Finlinson had eight points in the first four minutes. Dixie led 20-8 at the first intermission.
But things started to sour from there. It started mild at first. Ridgeline, the No. 7 seed, won the second quarter 14-12. It seemed manageable. The Riverhawks were within seven points, but Finlinson drained a 3-pointer at the horn to stretch the lead back out to double digits and give the Flyers some momentum heading into the locker room.
In the third, though, the wheels came off. Dixie led by as many as 14 points but were overmatched as the quarter continued. Ridgeline scored 19 points to Dixie’s 10. Kaden Cox drilled a trio of 3-pointers, and the rest of the Riverhawks matched the Flyers in scoring. The fourth period started with Dixie still in the lead but on its heels, 42-39.
Ridgeline took its first lead in the fourth quarter on another long trey from Cox from straight out to make it 55-54 with under two minutes to play. The Riverhawks scored another basket, and it took an impressive fade-away 3-pointer from Finlinson to tie it at 57 with 18 seconds to play. That score held into overtime.
Peyton Knowles started the scoring in overtime with a deuce for Ridgeline before Carson Forsey gave Dixie a lead off a 3-pointer from the corner off a baseline inbound.
Ridgeline had swatted a shot attempt from Finlinson out of bounds. Chase Hall responded with a bucket from the arc of his own for Ridgeline, and Forsey just came up short on a game winner as the clock expired.
It knocked the No. 2 team in the tournament out before the semifinal in jaw-dropping fashion.
“It’s basketball, right?” Roberts said. “Anybody can beat anybody on any given night. Credit to Ridgeline – it was their day today. They came out and executed and ultimately they just hit big shots down the stretch.”
Finlinson scored 34 on his own, 20 of which came in the first half in what would turn out to be his final game as a Flyer. Fellow senior Jeff Cox was second on Dixie with eight.
Cox scored 15, Hall scored 14 and Knowles scored 11 for Ridgeline, which advances to play Cedar on Tuesday.
Dixie’s season ends unexpectedly, as does an era for Flyers basketball, as the team graduates key seniors like Finlinson, Forsey, Cox and Alessio DeHart.
“This is a special group that I will always remember,” Roberts said of the entire 2020-21 roster. “Love these guys like my own sons. Fly fam for life.”
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