ST. GEORGE –Friday night’s first-round playoff game couldn’t have started much worse for the Pine View Panthers.
Down 8-0 to the fourth-seeded North Sanpete Hawks, Pine View turned to an unlikely source. Cody Ruesch,who averages eight points a game, finally got the Panthers on the board nearly five minutes into the first quarter. The senior post player scored 25 points and helped PV stay in the game early. The No. 1-ranked Panthers rebounded from that sluggish first half to blow out North Sanpete 69-46 Friday night in the first round of the 3A State Basketball Tournament at PVHS.
PV point guard Chaz Peterson ended the half with floater in the lane to put the Panthers ahead 23-20, then hit an almost identical shot to start the second half. Those buckets were part of a 21-4 Panthers run that turned that 21-20 game into a 42-24 PV runaway.
“We wanted to pound it inside because we knew they didn’t have the bigs to match up with us,” Peterson said. “We kind of settled down and let the game flow in the second half.
Cody Ruesch, who led all scorers with 25 points, was the lone bright spot in the first half for Pine View, which didn’t make a basket until Ruesch’s runner in the lane with 3:33 to play in the opening quarter.
By halftime, Ruesch had 12 points, more than half of his team’s 23 at the break.
“We knew we all had to step up with (Garrett) Bowker not being here,” Ruesch said. “
The Hawks were clearly concerned about Pine View’s 6-foot-7 center, Kody Wilstead. Ruesch was the beneficiary of the extra attention paid to the Panthers center, often finding himself wide open underneath the basket or the recipient of a post-to-post pass from Wilstead.
Meanwhile, the Panthers guards stepped up, with Peterson, Carter Milne and Matt Dalley all hitting 3-pointer in the absence of shooting star Bowker, who was out for the game with a suspension.
Peterson and Milne both hit 3-pointers last in the third quarter that capped that big run for the Panthers and turned a 36-24 lead into a 42-24 advantage.
“We were a little shaky in the first half,” Pine View coach Darrell Larsen said. “We took them in, calmed them down and made some adjustments. In the second half, our pressed worked well, we rebounded the ball and we got a lot of run-outs.”
Wilstead still got his points, scoring 15 and blocking five shots to go with five boards and a couple of steals. Pine View outscored North Sanpete 46-26 in the second half.
Brady Wheeler and Spencer Applegarth played well early for the Hawks, who conclude their season with a 10-12 record. Wheeler finished with 10 points and Applegarth had all eight of his points in the first half.
Pine View, 20-2, advances to the state quarterfinals and will play Uintah Thursday at 11:10 a.m. The Utes beat Tooele 65-50 Friday night in Vernal.
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