OREM – The theme of the day for Region 9 schools was stale, finicky offense. Dixie fell right in line with that motif, managing just 46 points in a 56-46 4A quarterfinal loss to Salem Hills Thursday afternoon here at the UCCU Center.
“I never felt like I was safe today or that we had put the game away until there was 14 seconds left and (Dixie) conceded and didn’t foul us,” Salem Hills coach Jimmy DeGraffenreid said. ” Dixie is great team and you can never count them out.”
From the outset, it was clear that Salem Hills was going to make the Flyers beat them from the outside. Dixie, which had made just 73 3-pointers this season heading into the game (about three per contest), has made a living in the paint this year. Salem Hills threw down the double-dog dare by packing the lane and forcing the Flyers to look elsewhere.
“We knew that they aren’t a very good 3-point shooting team and that they get most of their points off of getting to the hoop, so we packed the key tight so they couldn’t get any drives on us,” Salem Hills star James Nelson said. “We played harder today, we executed, we worked together as team better and had a lot better chemistry. We knew what they were like because when we first played them, we didn’t really know a lot about them, and so when we watched film we learned about their tendencies.”
Dixie had beaten Salem Hills by seven earlier this season, scoring 72 points against the Skyhawks in the process.
But it was clear early that this would be a different kind of game. Dixie struggled with its offense, often passing the ball around the perimeter before settling for a bad shot.
Carson Bottema and Tanner Cuff did hit 3-pointers in the first quarter as Dixie trailed by just a 14-13 count after eight minutes of play. But with no shots falling, Dixie started to fall behind in the second quarter. Payton Wilgar cut it to 20-18 at the 5:13 mark, but baskets by Tyson Bishop and David Jones made it 24-18. A Wilgar trey cut it to 24-21, but Salem answered with a pair of free throws to make it 26-21 at the half.
Brody Henderson completed a three-point play in the lane in the third quarter, but the Skyhawks lead ballooned to 35-29 by the end of the third, thanks in part to a steal and breakaway slam dunk by Nelson
“So they were passing it outside because we were packing it in tight and making them shoot 3s and I knew they were going to get lazy eventually and so I just timed it,” Nelson said. “I knew he wasn’t really looking and I just caught my hand on it and the break was on.”
Dixie couldn’t get closer than four in the fourth quarter and the advantage grew to 43-35 at the 4:08 mark after three baskets by Nelson and a rebound bucket by Bishop. Dixie got within 45-39, but the Skyhawks scored five quick points to gain their biggest advantage at 50-39 with 2:15 left in the contest.
Tanner Cuff hit a basket with 1:10 on the clock that cut it to 53-46, but any thoughts of a late rally by the Flyers were crushed 16 seconds later when Cole Griffin took the ball to the hole, scored and was fouled.
“I don’t know if it was an advantage (playing Dixie a second time), but I’ll tell you this: Ryan (Cuff) is a great guy and I hated playing him in this game because I wished it was the championship game,” DeGraffenreid said. “Dixie is a team that I think deserves to be there. Ryan does an excellent job with his players.”
Tanner Cuff led Dixie with 15 points, but made just 6 of 19 shots. Wilgar added 12 points. Bottema, who had 26 last week in Dixie’s first-round win over Bear River, has been sick and ended up with just five points in the game.
“Tough one. What can I say?,” Dixie coach Ryan Cuff said. “I am so pleased with this group of young men. Always so hard to end. This season has been an unbelievable year and a fun journey with this group. They have nothing to hang their heads. They went undefeated in region and they won 21 games. We are sad that this ended prematurely, but our memories will last forever. Enough said about them. I love every one of them. I am blessed to coach such great kids, and coach with such awesome coaches, and associate with such wonderful administrators and faculty at Dixie High.”
Dixie, 21-4, made just 5 of 19 3-pointers. Salem Hills, 17-7, got 27 from Nelson and 12 from Bishop. The Skyhawks advance to the 4A semifinals and will play Sky View at 9:10 p.m. Friday.
Sky View 63, Payson 48
The Bobcats advanced to the semifinals by blitzing the Lions early on. Sky View rushed out to a 20-4 advantage in the first quarter behind the trio of Mason Falslev, Andrew Dean and Cole Smith.
Dean was a beast inside, scoring 14 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Falslev had 14 points and seven boards, plus three assists, and Smith had 14 points and five boards.
Payosn never led in the game, but did pull to within six in the second half before the Bobcats pulled away by making 8 of 26 free throws. Sky View also outrebounded Payson 39-26.
The Bobcats, 18-6, play Salem Hills at 9:10 p.m. in the 4A semifinals. Payson finishes the year with a 13-10 record.
4A first round results
Payson 71, Tooele 54
Sky View 61, Canyon View 42
Dixie 64, Bear River 55
Salem Hills 60, Stansbury 48
Desert Hills 65, Green Canyon 63
Orem 62, Bonneville 39
Juan Diego 75, Lehi 50
Hurricane 64, Logan 57
4A quarterfinal matchups (@ UCCU Center, Utah Valley University)
Sky View 63, Payson 48
Salem Hills 56, Dixie 46
Orem 71, Desert Hills 56
Juan Diego 59, Hurricane 54
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