OGDEN — Snow Canyon's hopes of having any chance at winning this year's 3A boys state basketball championship came down to 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding.
Those happen to be two vital skills that the Warriors take great pride in.
And, thanks in no small part to their ability to do those two things with the outcome of their state tournament quarterfinal clash on the line, the Warriors are still alive in the championship chase.
Sophomore guard Jacob Frei buried a 3-point bomb from the top of the arc with 31 seconds remaining in overtime — on a possession that was kept alive by the Warriors' hard work on the offensive boards — and Snow Canyon grabbed another critical offensive rebound following a missed free throw with 3.7 seconds left to deny Ben Lomond a possible last-gasp attempt to win it in a 67-66 thriller Thursday morning at the Dee Events Center.
"I got a good kickout from Nate (Gottfredson)," Frei said of the offensive rebound that gave him an opportunity to hit the huge go-ahead shot. "He boarded it well and, luckily for us, it went in. Luckily enough, I hit that last one. It was fun, a fun game, but hopefully that doesn't happen next game. We work on offensive rebounding in practice, and we get it done."
The Warriors started the game off scalding hot from 3-pont range, then cooled off considerably in the second half and OT, and Frei's 3-pointer provided their only points of the extra session, as they missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the final 13.6 seconds, but grabbed the offensive rebound after the second one to preserve the tense victory.
"Just keep shooting, keep shooting," Frei said when asked what he and his teammates needed to do when they went cold from the outside. "We know we're a team of good shooters, and we know one will fall when we need it to fall."
Snow Canyon coach James Brown was mighty proud of the way his sophomore guard played in Thursday's intense showdown against the Scots.
"Jake did a great job today," Brown said. "As he was growing up, we always knew he could shoot and score and stuff like that. He's been struggling a little bit this year, but he came in and hit some big ones today, so maybe he's peaking at the right time and maybe the rest of us will, too."
On the strength of his superb 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, Frei finished with 20 points. Gottfredson, the Warriors' 6-foot-7 junior center, added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Chandler Gines chipped in with a dozen points and 11 boards for Snow Canyon, which had a whopping 16 offensive rebounds in all on its way to a decisive 34-23 advantage on the backboards.
The Region 9 champion Warriors (15-6), who have won 13 of their last 15 games, will face Bear River in tonight's 3A semifinal match-up at 7:30 p.m.
Snow Canyon wound up 10-of-28 overall from 3-point range, but made only three of those bonus bombs after halftime.
"You know, at one time, I thought they were all gonna drop," coach Brown said of his team's 3-point proficiency. "And then the second half, we kinda went cool on our 3s. It's not what I was asking them to do, but we got it done. We were fortunate.
"But Ben Lomond, I tell you what, they came out defensively and got after us. There's a reason they give up the fewest points in the state (46.4 per game coming into Thursday's clash). They did a good job."
Brown pointed out that the Warriors' offensive rebounding ability has been a huge strength for them this season.
"That's something that we've had all year long," he said. "We're usually anywhere from 10 to 12 more rebounds than the other team, and offensively we do a good job on that end, too, and trying to keep them off (the boards) is a big deal. We're fortunate that actually we got two right there at the end that spit back out, and we were lucky to get ’em."
For Ben Lomond (14-10), senior point guard Sterling Brandley scored a game-high 22 points and handed out six assists, while senior forward Josh Hardin had 16 points and five assists. Andy Atencio bounced in off the bench and added 11 points for B.L., and senior center Sage Eastburn contributed 10 points and nine rebounds for the Scots.
"He's our pit bull," B.L. coach Ryan Wilcox said of Atencio, a spunky senior forward. "He comes in and he's fiery and he's got a tough attitude. He's our guard dog; he doesn't take crap from anybody.
"Both of our big guys had a heck of a task to guard the big kid (Gottfredson) — they're 6-2, 6-3 guarding 6-7, 6-8. That's a tough thing to ask a kid to do, but they battled with them.
"We might not be taller than others," Wilcox said, "but I think our hearts are a little bit bigger sometimes."
Region 11 runner-up Ben Lomond, which had won 10 of its previous 11 games, fell behind 9-0 in the game's first three minutes, battled back within a bucket, and then fell behind by 15 points, 30-15, early in the second quarter.
But the Fighting Scots refused to fold, as they pulled within 41-36 at halftime and surged ahead, 51-48, when Brandley and Hardin combined for 10 points in the third period. The Scots held a five-point lead, 63-58, following two free throws by Eastburn with 1:38 remaining in regulation, but Gines hit a leaner in the lane, Gottfredson got loose inside and then Gottfredson scored again on a putback to tie it at 64-all with 12.8 seconds left in regulation.
Gines' driving basket at the buzzer was waved off by a charging call, sending the game into overtime.
Ben Lomond, which missed two free throws in the final 1:05 of regulation and missed two more in OT, wound up 21-of-32 overall from the foul line, and those misses came back to haunt the Scots.
After staging such a valiant comeback from a disheartening 15-point deficit, the overtime defeat was a mighty tough pill to swallow.
"Our kids are tough and gritty and have a never-say-die attitude, and they showed that today and got back in it and got ahead," Wilcox said. "And then (Snow Canyon) got some bounces that bounced to them rather than to us, and I think that was most of the difference.
"Their big guy (Gottfredson) is outstanding; he's a strong kid, he jumps really well, he's really mobile and really active, and he's as good a big guy as there is in the state, at least for 3A. They shot 28 3-pointers, and when they shoot that many outside shots, there's a lot of long rebounds and it's kind of a 50-50 ball a lot of the time.
"I couldn't be prouder than I am," Wilcox said, fighting to keep his composure. "It doesn't make it easy to lose like this, but I am proud of them. They didn't fold when the deck was stacked against them. We talked and we said we're not gonna fold, we're not gonna fold and we're gonna give it everything we've got. Those kids in that locker room they left everything they had on the floor.
"I just told them I love ’em and told them I care about ’em. A couple of balls didn't bounce our way; that last 3 they hit was off of an offensive rebound, which was kind of fitting because they had a lot of them. We come up with that ball, they're probably gonna foul us and we're gonna go down and hopefully hit a couple free throws."1 comment on this story
And, after coming oh-so-close to winning, Wilcox would love to have another shot at the Warriors.
"I'd pay ’em a thousand dollars to play ’em again right now," he laughed.