ST. GEORGE — An intense Region 9 boys basketball season came to an exciting finish with two teams squaring off in the state championship match on March 3. The Cedar Reds hoisted the 4A Utah championship trophy in the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield after toppling the Desert Hills Thunder.
It closed the book on a season that several coaches said had the highest level of talent the region has seen in a long time, possibly ever.
“This is probably as good a senior class, group by group, school by school,” Pine View head coach Ryan Eves, who estimated his service time in Region 9 to be around 15 years, told St. George News prophetically in the preseason. “Dixie, Cedar, Desert Hills, they’ve all been starting three or four of them since they’re sophomores. You see them and you’re kind of like, ‘OK, here they are again.'”
It showed on the court. Teams like Desert Hills, Cedar and Crimson Cliffs racked up scoring at rates Region 9 had never seen. Desert Hills was the first team to break the 90-point plateau in a region contest as far back as MaxPreps data goes (2006) and then outdid that in a 101-100 overtime contest with Cedar just a couple weeks later. The region was anchored by upperclassmen that were building toward this season in their last runs at the prep level.
Meanwhile, teams like Dixie and Snow Canyon mastered the backcourt, holding Region 9 teams to 52.6 and 50.7 points per game, respectively.
Dixie came away as the regular season champion at 12-2 but four teams tie four second immediately after at 10-4: Crimson Cliffs, Desert Hills, Cedar and Snow Canyon.
Following the season, coaches voted on the regional awards. The results are as follows:
Region 9 MVP: Isaac Finlinson
It’s hard to make the case for anyone else. Dixie High’s Isaac Finlinson wins his second consecutive Region 9 MVP title.
Finlinson led Region 9 in points per game with 21.7 over the entire schedule including the preseason. But he had even more scoring power in the tank as needed, shown by his region-best 51% success rate on field goals. He also was second in the league in assists per game and led the Flyers in the category. The Flyers emphasized sharing the ball and led the league in assists per game as a team, with Finlinson leading the way.
He was also top-10 in rebounds per game and ranked fifth in the league with 53 defensive boards, despite missing two games during the season to illness.
On Jan. 22, he posted the region’s only triple-double of the season, scoring 13 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Desert Hills.
In the state tournament, he showed up when it mattered most. In a dramatic overtime loss to Ridgeline, Finlinson did his part. He scored a career-high 34 points, including a fall-away 3-pointer that tied the game with 18 seconds left to send it to extras.
The tall, lanky guard was the complete package on both sides of the court and leaves a big hole for the Flyers to fill following his graduation. St. George fans, however, won’t have to go far to see him play at the next level as he committed to Dixie State University to play for coach Jon Judkins, just one block up and one block over from his alma mater.
Dallin Grant, Cedar
Ethan Bennett, Dixie
Lyman Simmons, Snow Canyon
Mason Landdeck, Desert Hills
Trei Rockhill, Crimson Cliffs
The first team showcases the premier inside-and-out talent of the region.
Grant and Simmons were the league’s premier big men. Sophomore Simmons took home the rebounding crown with 128 boards in Region 9 play, 83 on the defensive end. Averaging 17.5 points per game, he was the closest in R9 to averaging a double-double.
Grant held together Cedar’s Region 9-leading offense, averaging 16.3 points a game and more than two assists. He also pulled down more than six boards a game. He was not often called to shoot from the arc but when he did, he was successful. His 47% rate on 3-pointers was the tops amongst MaxPreps qualifiers in Region 9 play.
Bennett played a role on a Dixie roster that tried not to single out Finlinson or Bennett as the star. Bennett came up big when Finlinson was out, guiding Dixie to a pair of wins, including posting 24 points as the Flyers narrowly edged Hurricane, 56-52, on Jan. 29.
Landdeck, who moved to the area from Washington state, led the region in scoring and assists. Notably, he posted 50 points in the 101-100 shootout with Cedar. He heads back up north to the evergreen state following graduation after committing to Eastern Washington University.
Rockhill was the best 3-point shooter in Region 9. He seemingly landed from everywhere on the court, scoring 44 in his 14 region games. Not only that, but his 45% success rate was third in the league, and his 97 tries were at least 36 more attempts than the two players in front of him. His 15.6 points per game were the fifth-most in the league.
Carson Forsey, Dixie
Cole Sampson, Crimson Cliffs
Gaige Savage, Cedar
Reggie Newby, Desert Hills
Treyton Tebbs, Cedar
Forsey played an integral role for the Flyers as a ball mover and held down on defense. Not often called on to be the team’s scorer, he had that ability in his pocket, posting 20 against Bear River in the first round of the state tournament.
Sampson was a scoring threat from all over the court as well, with an aspect to his inside play that may have even exceeded Rockhill’s. Sampson shot 40% from the arc and ranked eighth in the league with 14.3 points per game.
Savage moved from guard to forward and was key on the boards for Cedar. He averaged 11 points a game and pulled down six rebounds at the same time.
Tebbs averaged just under two 3-pointers a game and more than 13 points. He scored in double digits in all but one Region 9 contest. He also dished out more than two assists a game.
Newby was Desert Hill’s biggest outside option beyond Landdeck. He averaged just under 10 points per game in region play, but was behind only Rockhill and Landdeck with a rate of 2.4 3-pointers per game. He landed a season-high seven on Jan. 8 as the Thunder topped Crimson Cliffs in a 92-78 shootout.
Brock Felder, Crimson Cliffs
Jeff Cox, Dixie
Keegan Munson, Desert Hills
Lincoln Polatis, Snow Canyon
Zab Santana, Cedar
Sophomore Felder, along with fellow sophomore Jordan Eaton, may spell a dramatic shift in the Crimson Cliffs offensive strategy in the coming years. Built around Rockhill’s ability to score from the outside, the two young big men may make the Mustangs an even more dominant post team than they were this season. Felder led Region 9 with 2.6 blocks per game and was third with 6.5 rebounds. He also averaged 11.7 points a game.
Felder may take those reigns from Munson, one of the region’s top big men. The senior missed a game and very well might have taken the rebound crown from Simmons, as he is five behind the Warrior at 123. No other player had more than 91.
Cox, though not the biggest guy in the post, held down the paint with the best of them. He was ninth in rebounds and averaged eight points a game in region play.
Polatis fought through injuries for the bigger part of the season, playing fewer than 20 minutes six times in region play. Still, he finished fourth in the league with 28 3-pointers and landed 46% of them. Polatis also played a role in making Snow Canyon the top defense in Region 9.
Santana was one of the heroes of Cedar’s title run. A flex forward/guard, he scored 49 points in the last three tournament games, with 19 in the quarterfinal and final. On the season, he shot 49% from the field and was one of the Reds’ main energy guys.
Bensen Shepherd, Pine View
Blake Munson, Snow Canyon
Brenden Greenhalgh, Canyon View
Hayden Zobell, Canyon View
Hudson Hawes, Crimson Cliffs
Jack Reeve, Hurricane
Josh Bice, Pine View
Kruz Gardner, Hurricane
Shepherd gives hope for a Pine View program that found itself on the outside looking in this season. The junior had a three-game stretch in the early weeks of Region 9 play in which he scored 57 points and scored at least 13 for four straight leading up to the state tournament matchup with No. 1 Juan Diego that quelled the Pine View offense.
Bice was another bright spot for the Panthers, scoring nearly 10 points a game in region play. He was 10th in the league averaging 5.2 rebounds a game.
Gardner saw his role expand for Hurricane and the points followed. In the last five regional contests, he averaged 13.4 points a game, which would make him a top-10 scorer over a full 14 games. The center will get a chance to showcase that talent for a full season in his senior year.
Gardner will likely inherit scoring duties from senior guard Jack Reeve, who started the regional calendar strong but plateaued shortly after. He scored a season-high 20 points against Cedar on Jan. 8.
Greenhalgh averaged more than 10 points a game for Canyon View in his senior season and had more than an assist a game.
Zobell showed spurts of being a star, including 20 points on an 8-for-11 effort from the field against Dixie on Jan. 8. He struggled to find consistency, scoring as many as 14 and as few as two points in the rest of the schedule.
Munson gave Snow Canyon a scoring option beyond Simmons and Polatis. From Jan. 15 to Feb. 3, Munson scored at least 10 points in all six games.
Hawes completed Crimson Cliffs’ three-headed monster of shooting. The difference with Hawes is he’ll be back, as he’s only a junior. He averaged an even 10 points a game in region play and was fifth in the league with 24 3-pointers, tied with Greenhalgh. Hawes also led the league with 35 steals.
*Disclaimer: Statistics are cited from MaxPreps.com. Databases may be incomplete or incorrect and may reflect in the final tallies.
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