ST. GEORGE — Free throw shooting almost cost Pine View an outright region title. Almost.
But the Panthers got to cut down the nets Friday night in celebration of their 55-52 win over Cedar, a victory that clinched Pine View’s first outright Region 9 championship since the 2002-2003 season.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was a region championship,” Pine View senior Jed Newby said. “Now, to actually get that and to get it outright, to know that all the hard work we put in paid off, it’s just a great feeling. It’s amazing. I can’t really explain it. Cedar’s a good team. They came in with a chip on their shoulder. They didn’t want to give up the region championship. We had to earn it.”
The Panthers did earn it, but they nearly gave it away, too. PV made just 6 of 17 free throws, including four straight misses (one of which was the front end of a one-and-one) in the game’s closing second. But defense and a huge 3-pointer saved the day.
Pine View had led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but the Redmen chipped away at the lead late in the third with back-to-back treys by Keenan Nielson and Ben Brown helping to make it a 47-42 game heading into the fourth.
The Redmen completed the comeback midway through the fourth on a jumper by Kyle Wood to make it 50-49. Pine View answered almost immediately as Chaz Peterson bounced through the lane and banked home a shot to make it 51-50 with under three minutes to play.
Cedar came right back and regained the lead as Wood snagged an offensive rebound and looped it back in to make it 52-51.
Then came two big plays that swung the balance in this dogfight. Pine View worked for a shot, but couldn’t find a crack in the Cedar D. Finally, Chaz Peterson took the matter into his own hands and, using a high screen, buried a 3-pointer at the top of the key. His triple with 2:10 left put Pine View ahead 54-52.
The Redmen were patient offensively, but missed a 3-pointer, then a follow attempt with just over a minute left. Pine View then worked the clock to under 40 seconds and Kody Wilstead was fouled. He made 1 of 2 to make it 55-52 with 37 seconds to play.
Cedar got the ball and Nielson took a pass from Wood and banked home what would have been a tying 3-pointer, but the referees granted Cedar coach Craig Cardon a timeout just a split second before Nielson let go of the potential tying shot (see video).
As it turns out, Cedar would never get a shot after that, turning the ball over twice in the closing seconds on steals by Wilstead and Newby. And though PV missed key free throws in the closing seconds, the Panthers still managed to come out of the fray with the region trophy.
“I’ve got to find a new free throw coach, whoever that is,” Panthers coach Darrell Larsen said. “No, I’m happy. I’m very happy. I’m excited for the kids. We’re going to make a run at this. We’re going to work even harder and try and do something special for Pine view.”
Wilstead, the 6-foot-7 Panther senior, sat most of the first half as he picked up two fouls before the game was four minutes old. But he made up for lost time in the third quarter, scoring 13 points in the period and leading the Panthers to that double-digit advantage. He ended the game with 18 points and 8 rebounds and had a couple of huge clocked shots in the fourth quarter.
Peterson was equally important, making a pair of treys in the game and scoring PV’s last two baskets. He ended up with 13 points and 2 assists.
Pine View’s last region title was in 2006-07, a crown they shared with Dixie. The Panthers ended up winning the state title that year, beating the Flyers in a memorable game in the Burns Arena.
The Panthers, 19-2 overall, will host Region 12’s fourth-place team in North Sanpete next Friday night. The Hawks went 2-6 in their region and are 10-11 overall. North Sanpete has not played a single Region 9 team this season, though they did take both Region 12 co-champs Payson and Richfield to overtime in the past week. The Hawks lost to Richfield 75-71 in double-OT Friday night.
Game time has yet to be determined for the Pine View-North Sanpete playoff game.
Cedar, meanwhile, fell to 11-9 overall and finishes region play with a 6-6 record. The Redmen will travel to Richfield Friday night. The Wildcats, 12-7, tied Payson for the Region 12 title, then won a coin toss Friday night to get the No. 1 seed.
Wood led Cedar with 24 points and Nielson had 10 against Pine View.
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