Region 9 boys basketball: Final week preview

Crimson Cliffs basketball's Brock Felder (34) tips off against Pine View's Lucca Mamone at Crimson Cliffs High School, Washington, Utah, Jan. 6, 2021 | File photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — It comes down to this. A Region 9 season that many coaches said may contain the most talent it ever had comes down to just two games with plenty at stake up and down the standings.

Desert Hills at Crimson Cliffs, Washington City, Utah, Feb. 3, 2021 | File photo by Aaron Crane, St. George News

The region has as many as five players committed to Division I colleges, maybe more. Before the Rating Percentage Index standings were hidden in anticipation of the final week of the season, Region 9 placed five in the top seven seedings in 4A. Defending state champion Dixie has proven it wasn’t a fluke. Some fresh talent came in from out of state and shook up the top of the standings. Teams broke into scoring levels unseen in at least a decade and a half in Southern Utah athletics.

Six weeks are out of the way. Two games remain, with a lot to be decided. A stacked-top half has plenty of jockeying for position left to do. A bottom half has the chance to play spoiler.

Seeds two through four in the region are within one game of each other. Fifth-seeded Snow Canyon is only two games behind second place. Major disruption to the standings is not out of the question.

Here are the current standings for Region 9:

  1. Dixie 11-1 (17-3) RPI: 2nd
  2. (tie) Crimson Cliffs 9-3 (17-3) RPI: 3rd
  3. (tie) Desert Hills 9-3 (17-3) RPI: 4th
  4. Cedar 8-4 (13-6) RPI: 6th
  5. Snow Canyon 7-5 (14-6) RPI: 7th
  6. Pine View 3-9 (4-14) RPI: 16th
  7. Hurricane 1-11 (2-18) RPI: 17th
  8. Canyon View 0-12 (1-19) RPI: 18th

Starting from the bottom, Canyon View is seeking to claim it’s final Region 9 win before dropping to 3A. It gets its first chance tonight against a Snow Canyon team that has shown the potential to align itself with the top teams in the region, its fifth-place ranking not withstanding. The Falcons host fellow bottom-feeder Hurricane in the finale.

Crimson Cliffs at Hurricane, Hurricane, Utah, Feb. 5, 2021 | File photo by Aaron Crane, St. George News

The Tigers travel to Pine View Wednesday night as they try to climb to the sixth-seed in a rebuilding year for Todd Langston’s squad. Hurricane has managed to hang around with some of the top teams in the league but has eventually watched close early contests fall away. The players on the team are athletic but a lack of basketball experience has costed them. On Feb. 5 they held the high-scoring Crimson Cliffs Mustangs to 58 points, tied for their second-lowest scoring effort on the region calendar. Hurricane trailed by only four at halftime but watched the deficit grow to 14 over the final two quarters.

In their last meeting, the Panthers edged Hurricane 40-38. Pine View secures its sixth-place finish with a win tonight. It can’t climb, but a pair of losses and a Tigers victory could drop it a spot. Pine View has struggled on the defensive end this year, giving up 786 points entering the final week – that’s nearly 40 more than Hurricane, which has allowed the second most.

Once the fifth seed is reached, the fun starts. Snow Canyon boasts bragging rights for being the only team to beat Dixie in the region this season. It held Desert Hills to just 53 points a week after the Thunder became the first team to breach 90 points in a game in the region in at least 15 years and broke that record shortly after, breaking the century mark. It has quietly posted the league’s second-best defense behind the Flyers, allowing 630 points. The six other teams have allowed allowed more than 700.

It heads up north Wednesday night to battle Canyon View. Assuming a win over the 0-12 Falcons, the Warriors will get a second shot at Crimson Cliffs on Friday for potentially their ninth win of the season. The Mustangs and Desert Hills Thunder currently sit in a tie in Region 9 with that number of wins. With the right breaks going their way, Snow Canyon could vault to four spots in the standings in two games.

Cedar at Canyon View, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 10, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

In fourth place, Cedar enters the last week winning four of its last five games after a 101-100 double-overtime loss to Desert Hills on Jan. 27, the first time in at least 15 years even one team in the region reached triple digits in points, let alone both. It was one of three Region 9 teams to score at least 70 on Snow Canyon. It played within five of Dixie. The Reds dance with the Mustangs Wednesday night and will draw even with them in the standings with a win.

Dallin Grant and Gaige Savage rank fourth and eighth, respectively, in the points-per-game leaderboards in league play to lead Cedar to 893 points, 37 more than any other team. The Reds led the league with 901 points a year ago, a mark they’re poised to shatter with 64 minutes of basketball left to play, including a rematch with Desert Hills in the season finale that figures to be another shootout.

The Thunder start the final week with a tough draw against the Flyers. Between Dixie and Cedar, Desert Hills has the toughest final week in the season. Dixie humbled the Thunder in a 70-45 rout on Jan. 22 for their first loss in the region on the season. The next game was the Cedar scoring-fest. Mason Landdeck, the import from Washington state, has been the region’s top scorer. Of the team’s 856 points in league games, 289 have gone through him. Big man Keegan Munson tallied 140, the 10th-most in the region.

If the Thunder pull off a pair of wins, they could potentially challenge for the region championship. A loss tonight would clinch the region title for Dixie.

The Mustangs are the only other team that could press Dixie for the top spot. Crimson has some of the most lethal shooters in the region. Trei Rockhill is tied with Landdeck with 36 3-pointers made to lead the region and has a 42% success rate from the arc. It is one of three teams with 800 points. It narrowly topped Desert Hills 69-67 on a buzzer-beater trey by Trei on Feb. 3, which avenged the earlier loss to the Thunder. The Mustangs also had two humbling losses to Dixie and were outscored by a combined 30 points.

Dixie basketball at Crimson Cliffs, Washington, Utah, Jan. 15, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

If Crimson can outscore Cedar, which it already did 78-73 on Jan. 22, figure out Snow Canyon’s defense in the finale and get a pair of losses from Dixie, it too can threaten the top spot.

However, the top of the leaderboard could be decided tonight. If the Flyers, the No. 1 defense in the best scoring region in 4A, lock down one more win either at Desert Hills tonight or against Pine View on Friday they will clinch the region ring.

On Jan. 20, Dixie was dealt a stunning loss by Snow Canyon and scored only 40 points. The Flyers were held to single digits in two quarters. Head coach Tyler Roberts called it a fluke. They proved it by beating the Warriors 60-52 last Friday.

Isaac Finlinson is tied for second in the region in scoring and Ethan Bennett is fifth. The duo are also second and third in the league in assists. Finlinson is also sixth in rebounds. The team is averaging nine steals a game, the most in the league.

The FlyFam defensive core also pairs with two of the region’s top scorers for a tough matchup on both sides of the court. The Flyers in the driver’s seat for another region title and a deep run in the state tournament.

There is plenty of parity in Region 9 and it all comes to a head in the next three days. Upsets could have major ramifications for the final standings, RPI and tournament seeding. From there, it’s a scramble for the USHAA 4A crown.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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