CEDAR CITY — Dixie is back in the 3A state championship for the second straight year, and even though this year’s semifinal didn’t go into quadruple overtime, the Flyers had to work nearly as hard to get there.
Caught off guard by Bear River’s game plan, Dixie spent almost the entire second half pressing and playing catch-up.
It eventually did, taking the lead for good with 2:05 remaining on a Tyler Bennett dunk, as Dixie rallied for the 58-49 victory over upset-minded Bear River at Southern Utah.
“Credit them, they came out more ready than we did and more prepared than we were,” said Dixie coach Ryan Cuff. “I’m so proud of our guys, we didn’t quit. We kept going, kept fighting, believed in each other and knew that we had to pick up the pace.”
Dixie outscored Bear River 24-8 in the fourth quarter to rally for the victory,
With the win, the Flyers advance to Saturday’s 3A championship against the Juan Diego-Canyon View winner at 2:45 p.m.
“We’re not satisfied. We’re excited, we feel very lucky and fortunate to be there. I know our guys will be ready, a little more ready than we were here,” said Cuff.
Dixie actually came out strong, building an 18-12 lead after the first quarter. Bear River mixed up its defenses in the second quarter though and seemed to totally confuse the Flyers.
With Gunner Sorenson leading the way with eight points in the quarter, the Bears outscored Dixie 17-4 in the second quarter to take a 29-22 halftime lead. They scored five quick points to open the third quarter stretching the lead to 34-22.
Triston Hartfiel’s 3-pointer gave Bear River the 12-point cushion, his team’s sixth 3-pointer of the game to that point.
Dixie was intentionally sagging off the perimeter to deny Bear River leading scorer Mike Litchford easy looks in the paint, which worked as he only had five points all game.
What Dixie didn’t count on was Bear River knocking down so many 3-pointers.
Down a dozen, Dixie had no choice but to start pressing to fight its way back into the game, and ever so methodically it started working. It whittled the deficit to 41-34 heading into the fourth quarter and then tied the game with 2:48 remaining on a 3-pointer by Connor Dyches.
Less than a minute later, Dixie regained its first lead since the second quarter on a steal and dunk by Bennett with 2:05 left. All of Dixie’s points the rest of the game came from the charity stripe, as it eventually pulled away comfortably.
Dixie’s Bennett led all scorers with 23 points in the victory.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org