4A state basketball playoffs: Region 9 quarterfinals preview

Pine View at Cedar, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 11, 2021 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

RICHFIELD — It’s down to the elite eight for both boys and girls basketball, as teams flock to the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield to close out the 4A state basketball season.

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

For Region 9, Monday will hold nearly all-day action with a representative in six of the day’s eight games. It tips off with No. 4 Desert Hills boys at 9:30 a.m., taking on No. 5 Sky View and running through 7:30 p.m. as No. 2 Desert Hills girls takes on No. 7 Juan Diego, which came back on a tough Hurricane team in the second round.

Sandwiched in between are four more games featuring Region 9 teams, including two bouts pitting region teams against each other. On the boys side, No. 3 Crimson Cliffs duels No. 6 Cedar at 2:30 p.m., and the No. 9 Cedar girls squad takes on No. 1 Pine View at 5:50 p.m.

All games will be live streamed on KSL, and keep an eye on St. George News and @STGNewsSports on Twitter for updates on the action.

Here are some things to look out for in each Region 9 contest on Monday:

No. 2 Desert Hills vs. No. 5 Sky View (boys): 9:30 a.m.

The Thunder come in well rested and prepared after an easily-claimed win over No. 13 Cedar Valley on Friday.

Desert Hills basketball vs. Payson, Coach Walker Classic, Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, Dec. 18, 2020 | File photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Desert Hills was able to go to its subs in the middle of the third quarter of the game with a comfortable advantage over the Aviators, which head coach Chris Allred said was key to getting his players rested for Saturday’s practice and Monday’s early morning game.

Allred’s team will not have such an easy contest on Monday. The Bobcats were the highest seeded team out of Region 11 in the tournament but finished with an 8-2 league record, putting them second in the standings to No. 7 Ridgeline, which went 9-1.

Sky View brings in the sixth-best offense in 4A by points per game, averaging more than 64. The team uses a balanced offense with 6’10” senior Jackson Schumann posing a huge threat in the post and is a legitimate threat away from it as well. Fellow senior Evan Hall, listed at 300 pounds, is going to be a big obstacle on both sides of the court. The two are each averaging above 11 points a game, with Hall ranking 17th in 4A at 13.2.

Desert Hills can expect another shootout, after they became the first Region 9 team to score more than 90 points in a region contest in more than 15 years this season, breaking that record shortly after winning 101-100 over Cedar.

No. 8 Snow Canyon vs. No. 1 Juan Diego (boys): 11:10 a.m.

The Warriors have another dragon to slay.

Lyman Simmons dunks for Snow Canyon basketball at Dixie, St. George, Utah, Jan. 20, 2021 | File photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Snow Canyon may have been on the outside looking in during the Region 9 regular season, finishing in fifth place behind a three-way tie for second, but they were quietly one of the region’s top teams when healthy.

The team posted the best defense in the league, allowing just 710 points in its 14 Region 9 contests. Dixie, last year’s top defense in the state, was close behind with 737. Beyond the Flyers, no other team allowed fewer than 800. The most points the Warriors allowed in a league game was 76 to Crimson Cliffs on Jan. 27.

Snow Canyon can also claim one of only two Region 9 wins against the Flyers after topping them 55-40 on Jan. 20. A couple weeks after that, the Warriors topped Desert Hills 66-53. It is the only team in the league that can say they beat both Dixie and the Thunder – though those two split against each other.

The Warriors lost head coach Doug Meacham for a couple weeks during the season and had other key players out at various times. At their best, they are an absolutely lethal threat from the arc with multiple options from Lincoln Polatis, Blake Munson, Walker Morrison and others. To balance it out, sophomore phenom Lyman Simmons is capable of putting up 30 points a game when put in favorable matchups.

Snow Canyon has its biggest challenge yet. They can threaten the top seed if their shooting from deep is on point and their league-best defense holds against a Juan Diego team that more or less went unchallenged to a 12-0 sweep of its Region 10 calendar.

No. 2 Dixie vs. No. 7 Ridgeline (boys): 12:50 p.m.

The FlyFam returns to the quarterfinals seeking back-to-back state championships. The team set itself a step above a tightly-contested and strong Region 9. Their only two losses came in a “fluke” against Snow Canyon where shots didn’t fall and the Warriors defense did enough to contain Dixie, and a close bout with Desert Hills on its home court, going into overtime.

Desert Hills basketball at Dixie, St. George, Utah, Jan. 22, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Dixie is simply dominant on both sides of the ball. The team ranked second in Region 9 in defense, allowing 737 points, and fourth in offense, scoring 918. Their plus-181 point differential was second to Cedar’s 198, which scored 1,043 points but allowed 845.

Ridgeline poses a nice foil. The Riverhawks went 5-1 against common opponents, including topping Bear River 80-25 in Region 11 play. The Flyers topped the Bears 80-49 in the second round of the tournament.

The Riverhawks led Region 11 in both points for and points against en route to a 9-1 season.

Look for Isaac Finlinson to take control even more so as the lights get brighter for Dixie. He led the Flyers in points, rebounds and assists per game in the regular season and will be the focal point for them on both sides of the court. Dixie needs its No. 1 to be on his game against a tough opponent.

No. 3 Crimson Cliffs vs. No. 6 Cedar (boys): 2:30 p.m.

In the first all-Region 9 matchup of the day, two second-place finishers in the league standings go head-to-head once again.

Hurricane basketball at Crimson Cliffs, Washington, Utah, Jan. 13, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

In the regular season, the teams played within five points in both games of a split. Crimson took the first game at home 78-73 on Jan. 11 before falling 80-78 at Cedar on Feb. 17. Expect another close contest Monday.

Cedar is the cream of the crop in terms of scoring. It was the only team to break 1,000 points in the region schedule in all of 4A, and their 1,606 on the entire season is second only to Desert Hills’ 1,627. The team plays enough defense to lead Region 9 with a plus-198 point differential over the 14-game calendar. Dallin Grant, Luke Armstrong, Gaige Savage and Aaron Munson give Cedar options for points all over the court.

Crimson Cliffs, when hot, can score right there with them. The Mustangs were third in Region 9 with 936 points. They are lethal from the 3-point line behind Trei Rockhill, Cole Sampson and Hudson Hawes. The Mustangs were the only Region 9 team to succeed from the arc at a 40% clip or higher.

It comes down to the post play. How will Crimson’s sophomore tandem of Brock Felder and Jordan Eaton handle the inside play against a veteran, dangerous group under pressure? Only time will tell.

No. 1 Pine View vs. No. 8 Cedar (girls): 5:30 p.m.

4A’s top seeded Panthers get their shot against the two-time defending champions.

Dixie basketball at Pine View, St. George, Utah, Feb. 18, 2021 | File photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

Cedar isn’t the force it once was, going undefeated in Region 9 play in back-to-back seasons. They’re also missing All-American nominee Logann Laws, who sat out the entire season after emergency surgery. However, in the words of junior Braylee Peterson, “We’re still Cedar.”

The Reds finished third in the final region standings, but they know how to deal with adversity. Seven of their Region 9 games were decided by 10 points or fewer. Freshman Emery Harrison is an upcoming star, Peterson already is one and so is Grace Morales.

The juggernaut Pine View, however, has been a problem. The team won the two regular-season contests by a combined 41 points. Alex Olson has been particularly lethal, scoring 15 and 21 points in the two contests.

Cedar will have to find an answer to Averi Papa as well, perhaps the top player in the region and a center whose size the Reds don’t have a direct answer for.

Pine View has readily handled most teams it faced this season, with the exception of Desert Hills, to whom the team lost twice. The Panthers led Region 9 in defense, allowing just 521 points. They also came in second in scoring with 868 points. Papa (17) and Olson (15.5) were the No. 1 and 2 individual scorers in the league, respectively.

It will be a tall order for Cedar, but don’t rule out Corry Nielsen’s squad yet.

No. 2 Desert Hills vs. No. 7 Juan Diego (girls): 7:30 p.m.

The undefeated Thunder may have been underseeded in the tournament. They handed top-seeded Pine View its only two losses of the Region 9 season. The first was narrow, by just three points and needing overtime. The second was dominant, eventually decided by 16 points. Pine View head coach Ben Luce called Desert Hills the “best team in St. George.”

Shailee Bundy scores for Desert Hills at Cedar, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 26, 2021 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

But that’s neither here nor there at this point. The Thunder have to keep doing what they were doing all season: dominating on both sides of the court. Shailee Bundy and Julia Jacobsen are lethal in the post. Sa’de Turlington is one of the best ball movers in 4A. Enid Vaifanua has one of its best shots. Olivia Cluff developed into a strong secondary weapon, as well.

Desert Hills scored the most points in the Region 9 regular season and allowed the second-fewest. The Thunder know how to stomp out an opposing team’s momentum and suffocate on both sides.

Desert Hills takes on a tough Juan Diego team that overcame Hurricane, the scrappiest team in Region 9, in the second round. The Tigers held Juan Diego scoreless over the course of the entire second quarter en route to a 17-11 halftime lead, but eventually let it slip and lost by four.

Desert Hills beat Hurricane twice by a combined 40 points in the regular season.

If the Thunder can play their game, the Soaring Eagle might not be able to keep up for long.

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

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