ST. GEORGE — The Dixie State basketball teams finished out their regular season home schedule with a sweep of Fort Lewis on senior night. The women’s team won 66-59 while the men’s team won 73-69.
The Trailblazers jumped out to a 10-point lead at halftime and looked to be in control of the game but Fort Lewis had other plans. They cut the lead to six going into the fourth but Dixie State was able to hold on and get the win. Keslee Stevenson led the team with 19 points while three other Trailblazers scored in double figures.
“It was really hard balancing it out,” Dixie State head coach JD Gustin said of the emotions on senior night. “Like always, senior nights are emotional and especially with a special group. We ask them to prepare the same, they did and they ended up coming out and getting a monster win for us.”
While it was senior night, Dixie State (16-9, 11-8 in conference) got a big push from some younger players with Stevenson leading the charge. Sophomore London Pavlica added 13 points while freshman Breaunna Gillen had 10 points on the night.
“London wasn’t going to let Ali (Franks) go home with a loss tonight, that’s what is so special about this group,” Gustin said. “Keslee wasn’t going to let these seniors go home without a win tonight and they brought it. We really guarded. If we were more disciplined, not fouling, this is a 20-point game easy.”
The win bumped Dixie State into a tie with Fort Lewis for seventh place in the conference standings with just three games left. The top eight teams in the standings make the conference tournament.
“We’re right there and if we take care of business like we think we can, we should be alright,” Gustin said of the postseason. “If we don’t, then we’re in a dog fight to get in.”
As for a big improvement going into the postseason, Gustin said that their team is beginning to lock in on defense, they just lack offensive consistency. They have been dealing with some injuries but are looking to improve on shot selection and offensive discipline going into the last stretch of the season.
Dixie State finishes the season with three straight road games starting next weekend at Regis and Colorado Christian.
For the men’s team, they struggled in the first half against Fort Lewis. The Trailblazers were down by seven at the half and only score 27 points.
The second half was the exact opposite, with the Dixie State offense scoring 46 points on route to a four-point win over Fort Lewis.
Senior Jack Pagenkopf had a huge night with 27 points while Hunter Schofield added 19 points.
“Most of our halftime was about defense,” Pagenkopf said. “If we can get our defense going, we can get transition points and if we get transition points our offense will flow a little better. That’s kind of how we work our problems, the defensive end on to the offensive end.”
When asked about the emotions of senior night, Pagenkopf was just happy that his parents got to see him play. His parents had not attended a game at home in his two years at Dixie State. He added, “I’m just glad they got to see me hit a three, I went 0-5 last night.”
Judkins added that their defense was not great in the first half. It could have been because of the different lineup, Judkins started his seniors on senior night, but he was not quite sure.
“Then all of the sudden in the second half we started to get that energy back, started playing defense and then things went well,” Judkins said.
In the first half, the matchup zone that Dixie State (21-4, 16-3 in conference) normally plays was not working. They were losing shooters and Fort Lewis made them pay, going 5-11 from beyond the arc in the first half. In the second half, things changed.
“We changed up our defense in the second half, didn’t do as much zone and did a little matchup thing,” Judkins said. “Then our guys said we’ve got to get stops, what do you want. They said, ‘coach, let’s go man,’ and I love that. When my team says lets do that, I trust them and I know they can do it.”
The Trailblazers have a tough road stretch ahead as they hope to hold onto the top spot in the conference standings. They finish with Regis, Colorado Christian and Westminster on the road.
“We’ve got to be ready,” Judkins said of the final three games. “I thought this weekend wasn’t our best ball but we figured out a way to win. Now we’ve got to have better games in the next two weeks. We’ve got tough ones but this team is tough.”
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