ST. GEORGE — Snow Canyon has had to weather a lot of storms in the past year, from serious injuries, to a cancer scare and even the death of a teammate and fellow student. Now the Warriors are champions.
Snow Canyon weathered a red-hot shooting night by host Dixie Tuesday to claim a 64-59 victory and finish out Region 9 play 10-2, two full games ahead of second-place teams Cedar and Desert Hills.
“It would make a great short film,” Warriors coach James Brown said. “At halftime I just went in and showed them the shot chart and said, ‘Guys, they can’t do this all night long.’ I’m really proud of my guys in the second half.”
Dixie came into the game averaging three made 3-pointers a game, but hit an astounding 10 in the first half without a miss and ran out to a 17-point first-half lead. Five different players buried 3s and it seemed Snow Canyon would have to settle for a co-region championship. Kyler Smith even banked a baseline trey and Dixie scored 44 points in the first half.
“They shot amazing,” SC’s Kallan Webster said. “Last time we played them they didn’t shoot very well. They’ve obviously been out there working hard. We’re really glad they slowed down in the second half.”
Chandler Gines and Gabe Jensen helped Snow Canyon to a 7-0 start in the third quarter to cut the lead to 44-36. But Dakota Bair hit his third trey (and the team’s 11th) to break the run and push the lead back out to double-figures.
“They shot 100 percent in the first half from 3, but we knew we couldn’t give up,” Jensen said. “We needed to get them off the 3-point line the second half and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Warriors kept chipping away and Gines’ trey with 40 seconds to go in the third made it 51-43. At 53-45 early in the fourth quarter, Snow Canyon finally made its big move.
Nate Gottfredson hit a bucket inside and followed that with a free throw to make it 53-48. After a Dixie turnover, Webster got free inside and scored to make it 53-50 with 5:04 to play.
Bair scored a jumper to push it out to 55-50, but Gines got loose inside and banked in a shot with a foul. His charity shot made it 55-53 with 4:08 to go. Jensen then hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 55-54 with 3:29 left.
A Smith bucket inside pushed Dixie’s lead to 57-54 with just over three minutes left, but Gottfredson’s post move inside cut the lead back to one with 2:58 to go. Dixie had a couple of good looks at the other end, but unlike the first half, the shots weren’t falling. A Gottfredson rebound finally cleared the ball and gave SC a chance to take the lead with under two minutes to go. The Warriors worked for a shot, but missed. That’s when Gottfredson got his hand on the rebound and tipped it up off the glass and into the basket.
It was the Warriors first lead since 1-0 at the start of the game and made it 58-57 with 1:35 to go. Dixie didn’t cave though, as Blake Barney took the ball inside and drew a foul. His pressure-packed free throws went through and put the Flyers back on top, 59-58, with 1:07 to go.
Just 27 seconds later, unlikely hero Jake Frei found himself with an open look inside and put Snow Canyon ahead. Frei, a sophomore, got a great screen from Gottfredson and looped his layup in. It was his only basket of the game.
A Dixie turnover led to a Gines layup that made it 62-59 with 21 seconds left in the game and prompted a time out by the Flyers. Out of the 60-second break, Dixie worked it to Bair, but his potential game-tying 3-pointer was a little long. Webster hit two free throws with 7.4 seconds to play to put the game away.
“There’s nothing better than controlling your own destiny and taking care of it the right way,” Brown said. “What a night.”
While the Warriors were making the comeback, a buzz was circulating through the crowd. With the game starting about 40 minutes late (long JV game, plus late referees), fans were getting the scores to the other games via Twitter. With Desert Hills falling at home to Canyon View and then Cedar losing at Pine View, many fans began to realize that Snow Canyon was already region champions, no matter what happened the rest of the game.
Still, when the final buzzer sounded, the Snow Canyon students rushed the court and the students and players lingered and savored the moment. After the celebration at Dixie, the tam and many of the fans headed to Snow Canyon High School for the ceremonial cutting down of the nets as region champions.
Gines finished with 22 for SC, while Gottfredson had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Webster had 11 points. Bair led Dixie with 19 while Smith added 12.
The Warriors, now 13-6 overall, will play host to 9-13 Park City Friday night in the first round of the playoffs. Dixie, 9-13, will play at 18-5 Judge Memorial. Dixie beat the Bulldogs at Judge in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
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Video produced by Sara Amodt
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