CEDAR CITY — Winning a region title is sweet. Winning two in a row is even sweeter. Clinching that second title on the road against a high-quality opponent is almost too much to ask.
Kyle Wood’s potentially game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer caromed hard off the back iron for Cedar, sparking a celebration by the Snow Canyon faithful as the Warriors held on for a 46-44 victory at CHS.
The win, coupled with Pine View’s loss to Desert Hills, guarantees Snow Canyon the outright region title for the second straight year and the No. 1-seed heading into the state playoffs, which begin Feb. 21.
“This is such a competitive region and I believe all four of our teams going into the playoffs have a chance to go far,” Brown said. “Region 9 is tough and that’s one of the reasons I am so proud of these kids and this region championship.”
The game was a defensive scrum right from the beginning, with SC bigs Nate Gottfredson and Hayden Anderson banging down low with Cedar bigs Dustin Staggs and Greyson Hulet. The behemoths played to a stalemate in the first half, with each teams post players tallying a combined 10 points. The Warriors led 18-16 at the half behind contributions from tanner Sampson and Chase Jenkins.
But the most shocking number of the first 16 minutes was the goose egg on the board for the region’s top scorer, Cedar’s Kordan Nielson. With Warner Rigby and Jenkins chasing him the first half, Nielson missed all seven of his shot attempts.
“If you would have told me that Nielson would have zero points at halftime and we’d be ahead 18-16, well I wouldn’t have believed it,” Brown said. “Warner did a great job on him, but he wasn’t alone. A lot of guys helped out. And you knew Nielson would get it going in the second half. He’s too great a player.”
And get it going, he did. Right out of the intermission, Nielson set up Staggs for a basket, then hit a driving layup, then assisted on another Staggs score. Before two minutes had even ticked off the third quarter clock, Cedar had gone on an 8-0 run and seized a 24-18 lead.
Four minutes later, it was still a six-point edge for the Redmen at 30-24. But the Warriors would own the last two and a half minutes of the third period, outscoring Cedar 12-3 in that stretch. It started when Jacob Frei drew a foul on a 3-pointer and made all three of his freebies. Anderson followed with a rebound basket at the 1:52 mark to make it 30-29. Hulet made one free throw to make it 31-29, but SC tied it on a post move by Gottfredson with 1:29 to go.
Cedar regained the lead at 33-31 on a pair of charity shots by Hulet, but the Warriors tied it at 33-33 on a nifty inside move by Sampson. After a Cedar turnover, Snow Canyon held for one shot and Sampson banked in a trey at the third quarter buzzer to put SC ahead 36-33 with one quarter to play.
It remained a one possession game until the 2:34 mark of the final quarter. Gottfredson took on a double-team in the low block and, when his shot went long, Anderson had an easy tip-in on the weak side to put the Warriors ahead 44-39.
That lead lasted 25 seconds as Nielson split several defenders and sliced the advantage to 44-41 with 2:09 to play. After the two teams exchanged misses and turnovers, Rigby drew a foul and made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 45-41 with 58.5 seconds left.
Again, Nielson went to work. Using a screen from Staggs, he stepped away from his defender, then pump-faked a second defender. After the SC player went past, he nailed a 21-footer to make it 45-44 with 38.8 seconds left.
After a timeout, Snow Canyon beat the Cedar pressure and worked the clock down to 23.5 seconds before Cedar was finally forced to foul Jenkins. The SC point guard hit 1 of 2 free throws, making it 46-44. Cedar worked the ball to half court and called time out with 11 seconds to go.
The Redmen had to throw it into back court to get it to Nielson, who was greeted by two, then three defenders when he reached the forecourt. Realizing he would never get a shot off in time, Nielson hit Wood on the left angle in 3-point territory. The senior shooting guard had a clean look at the game-winner, but shot it a little hard and it bounced away, giving Snow Canyon the win.
Wood, who had hit two treys earlier in the game, has 18 on the season.
“He had a pretty good look,” Brown said. “We just knew we couldn’t let Nielson beat us. Cedar’s a great program and with the tournament at SUU, they have a great chance at doing very well.”
Snow Canyon, which got 15 points from Gottfredson and 13 from Anderson, is now 14-6 overall this season, 9-2 in region play. The Warriors conclude their regular season with a home game against Desert Hills Friday night.
Cedar, which got 15 points from Nielson (all after halftime) and 11 from Staggs, drops to 12-8 and 7-4. The Redmen will likely have to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs even with a win Friday at Dixie as both Desert Hills and Pine View hold tiebreaker advantages over Cedar, having split with Snow Canyon.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.