A physical battle between in-state rivals Westminster and Dixie State saw 52 fouls and 54 free throw attempts. Westminster came out ahead with a conference-opening win, 68-64.
A spirited first half saw the score tied three times and the lead change three times. Westminster scored the first five points of the game and carried the lead for nine minutes. Dixie State tied it up after being down by seven points. The teams traded baskets with the lead eventually falling to the Trailblazers who carried it into the half, 30-27.
The margin of error decreased in the second half as the game became more physical and tightly contested. Eighteen fouls in the first 10 minutes of the second half put both teams into the bonus early. The game was tied seven times, and the lead changed five times during the half.
With four minutes remaining, Westminster had its largest lead of the game, 10 points, thanks to an 18-1 run. The path to victory didn't get any easier as Dixie State increased its pressure and fought to take the lead back. Westminster scored seven points, all coming from the free-throw line, in the final minutes to hold on to the lead and win 68-64.
Jake Connor led the Griffin offense with 24 points, going 12-of-14 from the stripe, 4-of-7 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc. Brandon Warr put up 14 points, and Jai Jai Ely scored eight and tallied five assists.
Ely grabbed 10 rebounds, all defensive, and had a steal on the night. Warr grabbed eight boards with a steal, while Joonas Tahvanaine, Jacob McCord and Travis Devashrayee each had four rebounds.Comment on this story
"We panicked in the first half because of their pressure," head coach Norm Parrish said. "In the second half, we dealt with the pressure better.
"The atmosphere was great. Many of these players know each other. Coach Judkins and I know each other probably too well."
Connor also commented on the team handling pressure well.
"It was a team win," he said. "It was a big win. We executed some things well and handled some pressure down the stretch."
The Griffins travel to South Dakota to play conference foes Black Hills State on Friday and South Dakota Mines on Saturday.