Momentum in a high school game is unbelievable, we had it at the end. I’m proud of my guys. —Cedar coach Craig Cardon
CEDAR CITY — Kordan Nielson thought he’d blown it.
When the Cedar guard missed a driving, contested lay-up with 40 seconds remaining in Friday’s 3A semifinal, he knew Snow Canyon would surely play for the last shot that Cedar didn’t.
“I was praying that we could get a stop,” said Nielson.
Fortunately for Nielson, Snow Canyon’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim, giving Cedar new life in overtime. Momentum took over from there.
Cedar scored on its first possession in overtime and clamped down defensively the rest of the way to secure the 63-51 victory at Southern Utah University.
“Momentum in a high school game is unbelievable, we had it at the end. I’m proud of my guys,” said coach Craig Cardon.
With the victory, Cedar advances to Saturday’s 3A state championship and will take on No. 1 Morgan at 7:30 p.m.
Asked afterward if Cedar — which hasn’t played in a state championship since 1995 — was due for a win like Friday, Cardon had a different take.
“The old saying you make your break, you make your own luck, I think we played some very good defense, made some shots very difficult on them,” said Cardon.
In overtime, his team did everything right.
Big man Dustin Staggs scored six of Cedar’s first eight points in overtime to give his team the 56-51 lead with 1:17 remaining. Over the next 30 seconds, things unraveled very, very quickly for Snow Canyon. Four straight turnovers led to four-straight free-throw trips for Cedar, which stretched the lead to 62-51.
With each trip to the line, the pro-Cedar crowd in the Centrum got louder and louder.
“Coach Cardon just told us if we overplayed a couple passes and got into their shorts, got a couple stops, a couple buckets, made some free throws and we’d be all right,” said Nielson.
Nielson finished with seven points in overtime and led all scorers with 27 points, while Stagg added 21.
For Cedar, the victory avenged a pair of region losses to Snow Canyon by a combined five points. Ironically, in both of those games Cedar played for the last shot and ended up losing.
“Same game we played two weeks ago and a month ago. It’s no different other than we won this time,” said Cardon.
Outside of a quick 7-0 start by Snow Canyon, the semifinal was tight throughout.
After Cedar took a 34-33 lead on a Ben Brown lay-up with two seconds remaining in the third quarter, incredibly it never trailed the rest of the game. On two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, Cedar built a slim four-point lead, but both times Snow Canyon quickly tied.
Cedar’s last lead in overtime came at the 1:03 mark as Staggs made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a 48-46 game. Thirteen seconds later though, Chase Jenkins leveled the score at 48-48 on a driving lay-up.
Jacob Frei led Snow Canyon with 15 points in the loss.