RICHFIELD — They've gone from flying under the radar to winning a state championship, and now the South Summit Wildcats say playing in the state tournament is tougher with increased expectations.
It sure doesn't seem that way.
South Summit smashed San Juan 54-35 in the 2A semifinals late Friday night, and will repeat as state champions if it beats South Sevier in the title game Saturday. The Wildcats are probably favored after winning 19 straight games and beating three state tournament opponents by an average of 23.7 points.
"We've come in the forefront of it all (after winning the state championship last year)," said South Summit coach Jerry Parker. "It's harder. A real champion can be put up there in front and run with it and I think we're doing a good job of that."
The Wildcats started slowly against San Juan but took control with a 14-2 run in the final minutes of the first quarter. Four players scored for a balanced South Summit team during the spurt.
"We have a lot of different players, so there's no one you can really focus on," said senior guard Trevor Rydalch, who had a game-high 19 points. "When people are playing well, it gives other people opportunities. We have the personnel that can take advantage of that. It's nice that we've played well as a team all year."
Rydalch helped South Summit put the game away in the third. After San Juan started to threaten and made it 28-21, Rydalch hit a 3-pointer and then converted a three-point play. He made one free throw after a technical foul to give the Wildcats a quick seven points.
South Summit eliminated South Sevier on a last-second shot in the semifinals last season, and knows the Rams want revenge. The two teams did not play during the regular season, so this will be their first meeting since the Wildcats' dramatic victory.
"They've wanted revenge since whatever day that was last year," Parker said. "We gave it to them and they're sore on that. It'll be a dogfight."
And a dogfight South Summit will be ready for.
"We know," Rydalch said of how the Rams want revenge. "We understand. We're just going to go out there and play our game."
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