RICHFIELD — South Sevier was barely recognizable — and soon coach Scott Hunt won't be, either.
The Rams, playing a style on both ends of the floor that they never utilize, caught South Summit off guard and won the 2A championship on Saturday night. South Sevier defeated the Wildcats 42-37 by controlling tempo on offense and playing zone on defense.
Hey, whatever works. Hunt felt like he had to make the adjustments because his gut feeling told him his team had little chance of winning. South Summit ended his team's perfect season in the semifinals last season and the Wildcats were on a roll, winning 19 straight games before Saturday.
"It was unbelievable," Hunt said. "We came to the gym — and I hate to say it because I wasn't doubting my kids — but I really believed we needed to have a perfect game (to win)."
South Sevier didn't quite play perfectly, but the game plan was faultless. The Rams felt like they had to counter South Summit's superior size and athleticism by keeping the Wildcats out of the paint and limiting their transition opportunities. South Sevier likes to run and gun and shoot 3-pointers, but against South Summit it took its sweet time when it had the ball.
It may have been odd to see the Rams playing conservatively, but it worked. And thanks to his brilliant game plan, Hunt will soon be without facial hair. He was so unsure of his team's ability to win the state championship this season, he told his players they could shave his mustache off if they did. It was slated to be shaved at a team party in Monroe following the title win.
"My kids won't even know who I am," Hunt said.
Hardly anyone knew who Kaden King was entering the state championship game, but he made a name for himself against the Wildcats. He caught fire in the fourth quarter, draining three 3-pointers in the final period. Two of King's baskets came at critical times. The first was when the Wildcats made it 33-29, and the second was when South Summit closed to 38-35.
There was no hesitation or fear from King, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.
"You just got to keep shooting," King said. "Coach said shooters keep shooting. He tells me when I'm open, let it fly."
South Sevier took control of the game by keeping the Wildcats scoreless in the second quarter. It wasn't all the Rams' defense, though, because South Sevier did an outstanding job of controlling tempo and keeping the ball out of the Wildcats' hands.
"The power team usually wins in state tournament time," Hunt said. "The team that can throw it in the post, get easy baskets, get to the free throw line (usually wins). We've been shooting 3s all year long. We didn't make them early."
Sophomore and tournament MVP Race Parsons was steady throughout the game and led South Sevier with 20 points. He was overcome with emotion after the victory, hugging and crying with everyone who entered his personal space.
Part of why he was so emotional was because of who the Rams beat. Losing to South Summit in the semifinals last year was a bitter disappointment for South Sevier, and a defeat it deeply wanted to avenge.
"I told my dad (Rett) last year after we lost to South Summit that we were going to win the state championship and I was going to win it for him," Parsons said. "Parsons are really sensitive. My dad and my grandpa are all teary eyed. We're the first ones to cry at anything no matter what it is."
Sophomore Patrick Baker made one of the biggest plays of the game for the Rams. South Summit tried to inbound the ball beneath its basket with 15 seconds left in the game, but threw it into the opposite court. Baker tracked the loose ball down by diving for it, and then quickly got it to Parsons, who was then fouled.
"The way he chased the ball down at the end of the ball game showed heart," Hunt said. "We showed heart and grit all year long."
2A Boys All-Tournament Team
MVP: Race Parsons, South Sevier
Kaden King, South Sevier26 comments on this story
Trevor Rydalch, South Summit
Cameron Shumway, San Juan
Brandon Winn, South Sevier
Parker Anderson, South Summit