ST. GEORGE — Hey Ryan Koller, after hitting the game-winning shot against Cedar Wednesday night with two seconds left, what can you give us for an encore? How about a perfect shooting night and 21 points in a jam-packed and hostile gym?
“That was the craziest game I’ve ever played in,” Koller said. “I just focused on my shots and didn’t let the crowd get to me.”
Pine View leads the region in 3-point shooting and Koller is a big reason why. He hit five in the game, on five attempts, nailing two in each of the first two quarters. His two treys sparked an 8-2 run to close out the first quarter and give the Panthers a 15-9 lead after one. Koller then opened the second period with a long-ball to make it 18-9. The Thunder stayed within 22-14, but Koller’s fourth trey of the half, with 2:42 to go until intermission, gave Pine View its first double-digit lead of the night at 25-14. Taylor Houston’s free throw just before half pulled DH to within 25-15 at the break.
Koller, who moved into Pine View’s boundaries from Utah County last summer, has found a niche as the Panthers’ instant offense off the bench.
“I’ve never had move-ins that really work out, especially one that’s a senior coming in trying to fit into our system,” PV coach Darrell Larsen said. “But from Day 1, he’s bought in from what we’ve tried to do. He’s been yelled at. He’s been coached hard. But he’s accepted it and the kids have really accepted him and what he’s trying to do. I don’t know if many teams can say they have a kid come off the bench and score 25.”
The Thunder came out with more intensity in the third quarter, diving for loose balls and taking it to the basket. But for all their efforts, the DH players could only bring their team within six at 31-25 after a 3-pointer with 4:48 to go in the third period. Pine View answered back by dominating the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Thunder 8-3 for a 39-28 lead going into the final right minutes. Koller, Jed Newby, Collin Dowdell and Chaz Peterson all had buckets in the stretch.
Koller hit his final trey of the night two minutes into the fourth quarter. DH had just trimmed the Pine View lead to 41-30 when Koller peeled off a screen and swished it again, making it 44-30. A fast-break layup moments later completed his scoring for the night. his line: 21 points, 5 for 5 on treys, 10 rebounds and 2 steals.
“He’s a great shooter,” said Kody Wilstead of his teammate. “He finds open people, too. Even if he’s wide open, he’ll pass it if they’re even more open than him. He’s just a great player.”
Wilstead, who also had an excellent game with 19 points and 19 rebounds, did most of his damage after halftime. The junior center, who also blocked five shots, was forced to man the post alone most of the game with fellow big man Collin Dowdell battling foul problems.
“I challenged Kody,” Larsen said. “I told him, ‘This is an opportunity. You need to grow up and be the leader now.’ Naturally, he’s a quiet kid. He’s not a ‘rah-rah’ guy. But neither is Peyton Manning. Neither is Tom Brady and those guys. He did a fantastic job. He’s growing up a little more each time.”
Pine View made a high percentage of its free throws late in the game to balloon the lead out to 20 points, especially when Desert Hills started flinging up 3-pointers late. The Panthers ended up making 19 of 26 from the line (73 percent). The numbers were not so kind for the Thunder, who were just 13 for 54 from the field (24 percent) in the game, including 4 for 17 from 3-point land (23 percent).
The Panthers, 13-2 overall and 5-1 in region, are halfway through league play, but have already played four home games. In the second half of region, PV has road games at Hurricane, Dixie, Cedar and Canyon View, with home games vs. Snow Canyon and Desert Hills. Pine View’s next game is at Hurricane next Friday night.
Desert Hills, 8-6 and 3-2, had no players in double-figures, though Quincy Mathews had 8 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out with about two minutes left. Jordan Hokanson had nine points, but shot just 1 of 7 from deep. The Thunder close out the first half of region play with a home game Wednesday vs. Snow Canyon.
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