ST. GEORGE — One win at a time, Delta is changing the notion that it’s only a wrestling and football school.
Fresh off of winning the Region 14 title and then blowing past San Juan in the 3A first round, Delta pulled away from South Summit in the final minute of Thursday’s quarterfinal at Dixie State for the 48-42 victory.
Junior Jager Springer got a key steal with just over a minute remaining and Delta leading by two, and then sophomore Derek Smith sealed the victory from the free throw line as the Rabbits advanced into the semifinals for the first time since 1977.
“It means a lot. I told our kids, we’re not going down just to make an appearance in the state tournament. We’re going down to try and win it. I think what they showed today that we’re capable of doing that,” said Delta coach Kurtis Topham.
Delta certainly had to grind to earn the victory against one of the better defenses in 3A.
The teams combined to score just 10 points in the first quarter, and then Delta only led 17-16 at the half.
“They play hard. I thought the first half they really got into us, we kind of backed down. I kind of challenged our kids at halftime,” said Topham.
Both teams started making shots in the second half as the game started to open up. Justen Worthen hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter to put South Summit in front 29-24 with 1:40 left in the quarter.
“They hit a big shot, we’d hit a big shot. That’s what I love about state tournament basketball,” said Topham.
Smith’s 3-pointer came with 1:48 remaining and put Delta ahead 44-42. On South Summit’s ensuing possession Springer stole the ball at the top of the key with just over a minute remaining.
Topham elected not to call a timeout, and South Summit’s coach elected not to foul right away either.
“We had two timeouts, but I wanted to save them in case I had to. My assistant coach said to me, ‘do we know the situation,’ and I said, ‘well, we better it’s the end of the year we better understand what’s on the line,” said Topham.
His players knew exactly what to do as they worked the ball around the perimeter before South Summit was forced to foul with 17 seconds remaining. Smith, who led Delta with 14 points, proceeded to make both free throws to stretch the lead to 46-42, and South Summit didn’t have an answer at the other end.
Smith added eight rebounds to go along with his 14 points, with Springer finishing with 13 points. Worthen led South Summit with 15 points in the loss.