OGDEN — As Dixie cut down the nets following its improbable 3A girls basketball state championship Saturday at the Dee Events Center, there was something noticeably missing.
There were no Dixie cheerleaders celebrating every cut of the net after the Flyers' 33-32 upset of No. 1 Desert Hills. No Dixie band blaring the school fight song and only a dozen students hooting and hollering.
That void summed up the sentimentality of the Dixie Flyers all week — nobody gave them a chance, not even in their own school.
“It’s really sad actually. We didn’t have our band, our cheerleaders and we didn’t get a student section until our championship game. But we went out and proved to our school, St. George, everyone, Dixie, we’re here to play,” said Dixie’s Caroline Lantor.
Everyone certainly believes now.
Sophomore Kelsey McCann drained an angle-left 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds remaining, and then Dixie narrowly held on for the victory after the ref waived off a Desert Hills’ 3-pointer at the buzzer — which video replay confirmed occurred after time expired.
“It’s like a dream. I don’t even know if it’s real,” said McCann, who clutched the game ball afterward that clinched the first girls basketball state title in school history.
“It felt good when I let go. Throughout (the game) when I kept missing I wanted to get another chance, so I’m glad I had another opportunity to take it and I’m glad it went in,” said McCann, who led Dixie with nine points.
Just like in the previous three rounds, dominant defense gave underdog Dixie a chance even though nobody thought it had one.
Although Desert Hills beat Dixie twice during region play, the second meeting was close, and Dixie never doubted it could compete with the Thunder with a championship on the line.
That was evident from the opening whistle as the Flyers built a 10-7 lead after the first quarter and extended it to 20-14 at the half.
Dixie coach Ken Robinson, who came out of a three-year retirement to coach this season, talked confidently with his girls at halftime that things were unfolding exactly how they hoped.
“With our being able to control the tempo and not (letting them) get up and down runs, and keeping their inside game under control, they’re playing in such a way to give us a chance to take it,” said Robinson.
As expected though, Desert Hills regrouped after the sloppy first half. It held Dixie scoreless through the first four minutes of the second half and eventually tied the game at 20-20 on a Blair Bliss 3-pointer.
Dixie responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by McCann and Elizabeth Thompson to regain the lead at 26-20.
Deseret Hills methodically chipped away at the deficit, and the favorite finally took its first lead of the game at 27-26 on an Emily Seifert layup with 5:26 remaining.
Dixie remained patient and pulled back in front 28-27 at the 3:42 mark as Liz Empey knocked down a short jumper — the fourth shot of the possession for the Flyers.
Bliss had been very quiet for Desert Hills until that point, but during a critical 60-second stretch late in the game she started to take over. She put the Thunder ahead 29-28 on a short jumper and then converted a running jumper into a 3-point play with 2:32 remaining to increase the lead to 32-28.
Unfortunately for Deseret Hills, Bliss fouled out on a blocking foul with 1:07 remaining, which Dixie's Aubri Challis capitalized on with a pair of free throws.
Without Bliss’ confident ball handling, Desert Hills turned it over on the ensuing possession — its 15th turnover of the game — and Dixie patiently worked the ball around the perimeter over the final minute looking for the good shot, and McCann was thrilled she got one.
“All it came down to was heart, and we left it all on the court,” said Lantor, who added six points and five rebounds for Dixie.
Deseret News 3A Girls All-Tournament Team
MVP — Kelsey McCann, Dixie
Blair Bliss, Desert Hills
Haley Bodnar, Desert Hills
Caroline Lantor, Dixie
Tara Shipp, Cedar
Elizabeth Thompson, Dixie