Senior year, last game, this is just unreal. —Davis Heslington
RICHFIELD — Through two quarters of the 2A state championship game, held at the Sevier Valley Center Saturday night between the Beaver Beavers and Duchesne Eagles, an unbiased observer would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two teams on the court.
The No. 1-seeded Beavers were in white and held a five-point advantage, while the No. 2 Eagles were in grey, but, aside from that the squads, were almost mirror images of one another.
It made sense, really.
Heading into the contest, Beaver boasted the second-best defense in the classification, Duchesne the third. Both teams had been powered all season by their prowess on that end of the court — the Beavers to a 17-7 record and the Region 18 championship, and the Eagles played to a 15-10 mark and a second-place finish in Region 16.
With so little separating the teams at the half, the title game seemed destined for a thrilling conclusion.
When the final whistle blew 16 in-game minutes later, the ending was thrilling only for Beaver fans.
Led by their defense, which held Duchesne to three measly points in the third quarter, the Beavers ran away from the Eagles, all the way to a 44-30 victory and the state title.
“Senior year, last game, this is just unreal,” said Beaver leading scorer Davis Heslington (he finished with 26 points). “The kids on our team, we are not even teammates, we are a family. We all get along so well. It is just so cool to see everyone out on the court.”
“It’s a great feeling,” fellow senior Porter Hollingshead added. “We played for state in football this year, and we ended up losing, so it is a good feeling to get the win this time. It has been a great year.”
It was fitting that defense carried the Beavers to victory. After all, defense had been the point of emphasis by head coach Joe Hillock all season long, and, as he and his players made clear time and again, their defensive success started and ended with preparation. If there was one thing the Beavers did better than anyone else in 2A, it was prepare.
“As John Wooden said, ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,’” said Hillock. “We really bought into that.”
“I have coached college (ball) for a long time, and (this team) acted like a college team as far as preparation,” Hillock added. “When we would walk through a teams plays, they would ask the right questions. 'How do we do this? Are we supposed to do that?' When the other team was calling out their plays, our bench was calling out whatever our play call was. We knew what was coming.”
“Coach Hillock prepares us for every game,” added Heslington. “When they called a play out, we knew what was coming. We knew what they were going to do on their out of bounds plays every single time. We were so prepared.”
That was abundantly clear in the Beavers' dominant third quarter. The champions locked down every area of the floor, holding the Eagles without a single field goal.
“They had 11 points at halftime, and we had 16,” said Hillock. “Nine out of their 11 were from the three-point line. We talked about tightening that down a little bit more, getting a little more help off the weak side so we could recover back. They did a good job making that adjustment.”
By the end of the third quarter the game was over. Duchesne put forth admirable effort in the fourth, but the deficit was too significant. The Beavers were champions.
“It is unreal,” said Heslington.
Per Heslington and Hillock, the victory was about more than the basketball team, however. It was about a community.
“We are just a small town, so everyone supports us. There are a ton of people (here) that don’t even have kids that play who travel everywhere to watch us,” said Heslington.
“(The title) does a lot, not only for us but for the entire school,” added Hillock. “Yeah, it rewards the basketball players for all their hard work and things they have done, but it does more for the school. It means a lot for a small community to win something like this. This is for the town. The trophy will be in the schoo,l but it will be for everybody in the whole town.”
2A All-Tournament team
MVP — Davis Heslington, Beaver
Kade Lamborn, Duchesne
Chasen Truman, Enterprise
Sano Gasana, Layton Christian Academy
Porter Wood, Parowan
Porter Hollingshead, Beaver