WEST VALLEY CITY Judge Memorial point guard Stallon Saldivar was held scoreless in the first half against Bear River in the Class 3A semifinals on Friday, but everyone at the E Center knew his off night wouldn't last.
Saldivar scored nine of the Bulldogs' final 11 points to help Judge hold off Bear River, 53-44. The Bulldogs will play Wasatch in the 3A championship game tonight at 7:30.
Although he didn't score in the first half, Saldivar still was a factor for Judge. He got his teammates involved, making crisp passes into big man Noel Hollingsworth, and ran the Bulldogs' offense efficiently. In the second half, and especially in crunch time, he took the game over, ensuring that the heavily favored Bulldogs would qualify for their second state championship game in three years.
"As a point guard, it's my job to take responsibility and lead for everybody," he said. "I was just trying to take charge and get the ball in my hands or Noel's hands. He's a great free-throw shooter."
Saldivar finished with 14 points, and he dished eight assists and had four rebounds. His most important plays came after Bear River made a furious rally in the fourth quarter, cutting what had been a 12-point Judge lead to just 43-41. Saldivar then made a foul shot, scored on a layup, then sank four more free throws to give the Bulldogs an insurmountable 50-41 lead.
The Bulldogs' play at point guard was a question mark coming into the season, as Saldivar had to replace a two-time all-stater in Jaxon Myaer. Saldivar, a junior, now appears to be yet another in a long line of great Judge point guards.
"Stallon has come a long, long ways," said Judge coach Jim Yerkovich. "We lost a Division I point guard, but we haven't slipped in that position at all. I think he's going to get better and better."
Hollingsworth had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Oliver Hughes made four 3-pointers for Judge.
Jake Miller carried the Bears, scoring 21 points before fouling out.
Yerkovich said that Judge had been looking forward to playing Bear River all season. He figured that the Bears would go deep into the state tournament, and he expected his Bulldogs to be there, too."I'm really pleased with this win because I have a lot of respect for the Bear River kids and their program," Yerkovich said. "They're tough kids. They are competitors.
Top performer: Stallon Saldivar scored nine of Judge's final 11 points to help the Bulldogs hold off Bear River.
Key stat: Noel Hollingsworth recorded another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Up next: Championship, Judge vs. Wasatch, tonight, 7:30 p.m.