CEDAR CITY — Cedar’s big two needed help on Thursday, and a couple of the team’s unsung heroes delivered.
Facing a relaxed Juan Diego team with nothing to lose after 3A leading scorer Gabe Colosimo broke his leg two weeks ago, Kyle Wood and Weston Bettridge delivered clutch plays that Cedar High fans could be talking about for years.
During a 30-second stretch late in the game, Bettridge tied the game on a baseline jumper and then Wood responded with a steal and lay-up to give Cedar a lead it never relinquished on its way to the 40-35 victory in the 3A quarterfinals at Southern Utah University.
“You got to get those kind of things going your way, and I’m sure glad we did today,” said Cedar coach Craig Cardon.
With the victory, Cedar advances to the 3A semifinals to take on Snow Canyon on Friday at 5:50 p.m.
It could’ve just as easily been Juan Diego advancing in the match-up featuring two of the best defensive teams in 3A. Neither team led by more than five the entire game, and with 1:45 remaining Juan Diego actually took a 34-32 lead on a pair of free throws by Jesse Springer— its first lead of the second half.
Bettridge responded with a baseline jumper to tie the game at 34-34 with 1:23 remaining, and 15 seconds later Wood stepped up to perhaps save Cedar’s season.
With possession and the game tied, Juan Diego was probably content to play for the last shot — which ironically enough Cardon said he would’ve too.
Before the Soaring Eagle could spread the floor though, Wood stole the ball at midcourt and went in for the uncontested lay-up giving Cedar the 36-34 lead with 1:08 left.
“Kyle Wood is a very good player, but he doesn’t always believe he’s a very good player,” said Cardon. “We have some very good seniors, but sometime a junior has a tendency to take a back seat and Kyle’s done that way too often this year. It’s a great play by a good player and great time. We’re very fortunate.”
With the lead, Cedar’s big two of Dustin Staggs and Kordan Nielson delivered as expected.
Staggs blocked two Juan Diego game-tying shot attempts with 30 seconds remaining to preserve the lead, and then Nielson made 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to ice the victory. Nielson finished the game leading all scorers with 14 points.
Cardon admitted afterward he thought Cedar would have much better success offensively, but turnovers plagued his team throughout the quarterfinal.
“I really thought we could score more and score better against these guys. I thought our big guy would have a very good game. But we turned it over 23 times. You just can’t do that. You can’t score points if you don’t have the basketball,” said Cardon.
As for Juan Diego, it obviously struggled offensively without Colosimo’s 20.8 ppg, but it played great defense to give itself a chance.
“I thought they played a great game, they really did. I thought they battled hard, they executed our game plan really well,” said Juan Diego first-year coach Drew Trost. “Obviously our football team has had so much success, and they’re all football players, so they’re winners and they’re tough kids and they know how to step up in big moments.”
It wasn’t enough down the stretch though.
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