ST. GEORGE — The No. 1-ranked Pine View Panthers rebounded from a sluggish first half to blow out North Sanpete 69-46 Friday night in the first round of the 3A state basketball tournament at Pine View High School.
The Hawks led the heavily favored Panthers 8-0 to start the game, and it was still a 21-20 contest late in the first half. Pine View point guard Chaz Peterson ended the half with a floater in the lane to put the Panthers ahead 23-20, then hit an almost identical shot to start the second half. Those buckets were part of a 21-4 Panthers run that turned that 21-20 game into a 42-24 Pine View runaway.
"We wanted to pound it inside because we knew they didn't have the bigs to match up with us," Peterson said. "We kind of settled down and let the game flow in the second half."
Cody Ruesch, who led all scorers with 25 points, was the lone bright spot in the first half for Pine View, which didn't make a basket until Ruesch's runner in the lane with 3:33 to play in the opening quarter.
By halftime, Ruesch had 12 points, more than half of his team's 23 at the break.
"We knew we all had to step up with (Garrett) Bowker not being here," Ruesch said.
The Hawks were clearly concerned about Pine View's 6-foot-7 center, Kody Wilstead. Ruesch was the beneficiary of the extra attention paid to the Panthers' center, often finding himself wide open underneath the basket or the recipient of a post-to-post pass from Wilstead.
Meanwhile, the Panthers' guards stepped up, with Peterson, Carter Milne and Matt Dalley all hitting 3-pointers in the absence of shooting star Bowker, who was out for the game with a suspension.
Peterson and Milne both hit 3-pointers late in the third quarter that capped that big run for the Panthers and turned a 36-24 lead into a 42-24 advantage.
"We were a little shaky in the first half," Pine View coach Darrell Larsen said. "We took them in, calmed them down and made some adjustments. In the second half, our press worked well, we rebounded the ball and we got a lot of run-outs."
Wilstead still got his points, scoring 15 and blocking five shots to go with five boards and a couple of steals.
Brady Wheeler and Spencer Applegarth played well early for the Hawks, who conclude their season with a 10-12 record. Wheeler finished with 10 points and Applegarth had all eight of his points in the first half.
Pine View, 20-2, advances to the state quarterfinals and will play Uintah Thursday at 11:10 a.m. The Utes beat Tooele 65-50 Friday night in Vernal.
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989. Andy is the sports editor at STGNews.com.