ST. GEORGE – Wacky Region 9 has produced some crazy upsets this year, but Ty Rutledge and Taylor Houston made sure that didn’t happen Friday night at the Thunderdome.
Rutledge had 18 points and Houston converted two three-point plays in the fourth quarter as Desert Hills held off a fiesty Dixie team 68-58 in front of a couple thousand raucous fans.
“Region 9 is like that, but we sure love our crowd,” Rutledge said. “Dixie fought hard and wouldn’t let us run away from them. They’re a good team.”
The senior guard was spectacular, hitting a couple of 3-pointers and snatching six steals in the game. Meanwhile, Houston has helped fill the void of suspended guard Jordan Hokanson by picking up his offensive game. He finished the night with 16 points and six rebounds.
“We lost Jordan Hokanson. He’s 14 or 16 points a game,” Houston said. “Coach said I need to make up six or eight of those. So I started attacking more.”
It’s been a phenomenal week for the Thunder, who knocked off first-place Cedar in Iron County and then cooled off a red-hot Dixie team.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Dixie and their kids,” Thunder coach Wade Turley said. “Every time we got it out to 11 or 12 points, they found a way to make a run and keep it close. Our backs were against the wall a little bit. We’ve come out scratching and clawing.”
It would be easy to say Desert Hills won this game in the first quarter when Houston, Rutledge and Chase Williams hit back to back to back 3-pointers, turning a 3-2 DH deficit into an 11-3 Thunder lead. But that would be a disservice to the Flyers, who came ready to play with a big student section and a bigger chip on its shoulder.
Though the Flyers would never lead again after that 3-2 edge, Dixie kept making runs and consecutive buckets by Mitch Wilkinson and Kyler Smith just before halftime made it 30-25 at the break.
The lead would hover around the eight to 10-point mark most of the third quarter and early fourth. Cole Critchfield and Kyle Hanson each scored for Dixie to pull them within 48-42 with 5:15 to play, but Houston answered with an offensive rebound put-back that turned into a three-point play due to a Dixie foul.
Again Dixie surged and pulled to within 51-45 on a 3-pointer by Jordan Hall. He was fouled on the play, but couldn’t make it a four-point play as he missed the ensuing free throw.
Josh Anderson hit two free throws to make it 53-45, then Rutledge delivered the killing blow with a 3-pointer from the wing, making it 56-45 with 3:56 to play.
The Flyers gamely tried to get back into the game, but Desert Hills made enough free throws down the stretch to squelch any comeback thoughts.
Anderson was also in double-figures with 10 points for the Thunder, who shot a blistering 56 percent (23-41) in the game. DH also made 5 of 8 3-pointers.
Hall had 12 points and dished out a handful of assist and Blake barney added 10 points for the Flyers, who fell to 7-11 over all and 4-4 in region play. Dixie plays at suddenly vulnerable Cedar Wednesday night.
The Thunder improved to 13-4 overall and 6-2 in region, a half-game behind Cedar and Snow Canyon. DH plays host to Hurricane Wednesday night.
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