CEDAR CITY — With his team down 12 points early in the second quarter of Thursday's Class 3A quarterfinal, Payson coach Dan Lunt challenged his players to change stereotypes.
“Are they right?” recalls Lunt. “Are we one and done? Or are we gonna gut it out and play how we play?”
His players chose the latter.
Payson gutted out a 55-48 victory over Pine View at Southern Utah University by closing the game on an 11-1 run.
“Basketball is a game of runs. The team that made the most runs came out on top,” said Payson senior Daniel Reno. “We could have given up down 12 in the first half, but we kept pushing and pushing. We work super hard in practice and that turns over into the game, and we got it done.”
With the victory, Payson advances to the Class 3A semifinals to face Morgan Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The win also snaps a long, frustrating 10-game playoff losing streak for Northern Utah teams against Region 9 teams at either SUU or Dixie.
Neither team played particularly well in a game that was plagued by turnovers and missed free throws, but Payson made just enough plays to survive.
“We just kind of persevered, hung around, hung around and when we got some opportunities we took advantage of them,” said Lunt.
There was some extra motivation as well. At halftime Dallin Rowley came into the locker room and said he heard people in the stands talking about how Payson was choking in the playoffs again. Reno, who led Payson with 17 points, said that immediately changed the mood in the locker room.
“Faces changed. Attitude changed,” he said.
Even though shots never really started to fall for the Lions in the second half, they upped the defensive intensity forcing Pine View into numerous turnovers — 20 for the game.
“Our perimeter people have put unbelievable pressure on the ball all year and we didn’t do that the first half. We didn’t put on any pressure,” said Lunt.
Payson briefly took a 31-29 lead on a Reno layup with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter. Pine View responded quickly behind the hot hand of Jack Bangerter who buried two 3-pointers and added another bucket as Pine View ended the quarter on a 10-4 run to build a 39-35 lead.
The final turning point came late in the fourth quarter though. After Pine View missed a pair of free throws that would have increased its lead to four, Mark Wolf buried a jumper with 1:36 remaining to tie the game at 47-47.
Payson quickly stole the ball and Bryen Wood raced in for the layup for the 49-47 lead with 1:15 left.
The Lions did the rest of their damage from free-throw line by making 6 of 8 in the final minute.
Behind Reno, Rowley and Wolf added 13 each for the Lions.