CEDAR CITY — Considering their collective play throughout much of their 4A semifinal contest, played Friday night at Southern Utah University’s America First Event Center, the Bear River Bears were fortunate to even be in the game late against the Bonneville Lakers.
Bonneville had dominated the second and third quarters to the point where Bear River head coach Jon Hunt almost didn’t know what to do.
“I think (Bonneville) scored on every possession through first four or five minutes of the third quarter, whether at the foul line or getting a bucket,” Hunt said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, and we have been a good shooting team. It was a grinder and I don’t like these kind of games and our kids don’t either.”
The Bears trailed by double digits midway through the third, and worse still, their demeanor was eerily close to that of a team that had given up.
“I didn’t really like the demeanor of my kids,” Hunt said. “I thought we got a little bit down. It got to the point where I challenged them pretty hard during one of the time outs.”
The Bears answered the challenge, and, in the final moments of the third period and into the fourth, went on a 15-4 run.
“We came out and pressured, and luckily that pressure bothered Bonneville,” Hunt said. “More than that, they took some 3-point shots that were probably ill-advised and gave us a chance to get back in the game.
“We got a couple of rebounds and were able run out. We went on a run that really gave us some opportunities. It changed the game completely.”
Still, victory and the berth in the state title game weren’t the Bears.
At that point the Bears had a plan. They had a foul to give and, per Hunt, they were going to use it.
“I told them, ‘Look, we have a foul to give.’ I even told the official,” Hunt said. “We were going to foul as soon as the ball went live. It was a perfect scenario.”
The Bears didn’t foul, however, and the Lakers appeared to take advantage. One pass after another and the ball found its way across the court and into the hands of Bonneville guard Jordan Citte.
As time expired, Citte’s attempt, an off-balance layup, rolled off the rim, however.
With that, in thrilling fashion no less, Bear River had itself a victory.
The Bears had defeated the Lakers, 50-49. They had played their way into the 4A state championship game.
“I couldn’t enjoy the win because I was frustrated with what happened out there, but it is what it is,” Hunt said. “It is a big thing for us. We were picked to finish 5th in our region. To get to the state championship game is quite the accomplishment. We feel like we have a chance to beat whoever we play, so we are not done yet.”
“Parker Coombs kept us in it early,” said Hunt, “and Wyatt Roholt was huge down the stretch with his ability to get to the basket. He made some big plays for us.”Comment on this story
“It was a tough game, a grinder,” said Hunt. “It means a lot. It is a big milestone to play for the championship at any level. For us, bumping up from 3A to 4A, it is a big step. Some of these teams were 5A teams that came down to 4A, so we are kind of representing the little guys.”
The Bears will play the winner of the second semifinal game played Friday night, between the Sky View Bobcats and the Payson Lions. The championship will be held at 7 p.m.