HONOLULU, Hawaii – With a half-court heave, Chaminade senior guard Steven Bennett hoped for a little home magic to send the Pacific West Conference matchup with Dixie State into overtime Wednesday.
As the shot made its downward arc, the trajectory looked good. When the ball ricocheted off the back iron and into the humid Hawaiian air, DSC fans yelled in a roar of celebration that drowned out the final horn at McCabe Gymnasium.
Dixie State College held off the host Silverswords for a 72-69 victory and also kept hopes alive for a share of the Pac West championship.
The Red Storm improved to 19-6 on the season. The win pulled DSC even with Chaminade (19-8) and BYU-Hawaii (17-7) with identical 12-3 records in the league.
Head coach Jon Judkins reached the 100-win mark in his Dixie State tenure. In his sixth year in St. George, Judkins has a 100-67 record. “I did not know that,” he said, “that’s pretty cool.”
Senior guard Jeremiah Barnes scored the first four points of the game with a jumper and two free throws. DSC never trailed in the first half and took a 30-22 lead into the half after a Brett Adams jump shot fell through the net before the horn.
Tom Whitehead opened the second half with a three-pointer and Griffon Jones’ bucket put the Storm ahead by their biggest margin of the night 37-24.
“Our guys came out with a hunger to win. They played extremely hard,” Judkins said.
DSC and Chaminade traded buckets until the 10:00 mark, when the Swords made a big run. Bennett, Dominique Cooks and Chris Curtis each had four points in 16-4 spurt that gave Chaminade their first lead at 60-59 with 4:29 remaining.
Cooks nailed a three-ball a minute later for the Swords, only to see Whitehead answer with a triple from the wing on the next Red Storm possesion, which proved to be the momentum changer.
Barnes made one of two free throws and Donovan Plunkett capped his 18-point night with two late charity shots to set the final three-point margin.
Whitehead finished with 13 points while Solomon Jensen had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Red Storm shot 24 of 52 from the field (46.2-percent) and a school-record 95-percent from the free-throw line (19 of 20). Chaminade ended the night with a 42.1-percent clip from the field, bouncing back from a below-average 7 for 27 (25.9%) showing in the first half.
Dixie State can stake a claim to a share of the Pacific West title for the second straight year with a win Saturday at Hawaii-Hilo. Tip off from the Big Island is scheduled for 5:30pm Mountain time.