WEST VALLEY CITY – The Dixie Flyers charged back and even took the lead during the fourth quarter, but Pine View’s Kody Wilstead took over and brought home a state championship for his team.
The Pine View Panthers (23-2) beat the Flyers (20-6) by a final score of 46-43 to win the Utah Boys 3A State Basketball Championship — their first in eight years.
The victory has even more special meaning for the Panthers. They vowed to win this state championship a year ago for the late Darin Walker, a Pine View assistant coach that died.
“It was a year ago today that he went into the hospital,” Pine View senior Jed Newby said. “Fulfilling that goal that we made for him is incredible. I’m lost for words right now. It’s just amazing to be standing here and know that this is real.”
It also meant a lot to the Pine View seniors, who have been right there in every sport competing for championships, but not quite getting over the hump.
“I’m just happy for our kids,” Pine View coach Darrell Larsen said. “They’ve been in big games, and I’m just glad that get to go home with a ring. That was our mantra—building rings.”
Blake Ence, a senior guard for Pine View, said it’s about time the Panthers got it done.
“Everyone knows you work hard and what kind of a teammate you are and it finally paid off,” said Blake Ence, a senior guard for Pine View. “It feels great. I know for Wilstead it’s a huge monkey off his back, and for me too. It feels like I just won the lottery.”
Pine View sixth man Garrett Bowker said the Panthers absolutely deserved to be champions.
“We worked so hard. We deserve every bit of it,” Bowker said. “It’s what everyone dreams of, and if you could feel this feeling, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Wilstead dunked home the basketball early in the fourth quarter to put the Panthers on top 37-36 after Dixie’s Tyler Bennett drove into the lane and drew a foul on Garrett Bowker with a mid-range jump shot and one free throw that made it 36-35, Dixie.
R.J. Wilgar came back down with a 3-pointer from the wing that gave the Flyers a 39-37 lead. Chaz Petersen scored, and Wilstead put in three free throws on multiple trips down the floor, Richard Guymon and Jake Hawes answered for Dixie with free throws and a bank shot, and suddenly the Flyers led 43-42 with less than a minute to play.
Wilstead then went to work and answered with a bucket, drew a foul, and finished the and-one to make the score 45-43 in favor of the Panthers. Guymon traveled on the ensuing possession trying to back Wilstead into the paint, which forced the Flyers to start intentionally fouling. Wilstead went to the line with 15 seconds remaining and put in one free throw to get the trophy for the Panthers.
The Flyers gave every bit of energy they had left playing just 15 hours after their quadruple overtime victory against Desert Hills in the state semifinals.
Pine View held a 30-19 lead over Dixie at halftime. Then Dixie charged back.
The Flyers went on an 11-0 run to close the third quarter after trailing 35-22. Bennett had a personal 7-0 run in the midst of that.
Bennett caught a pass from Nate Crockett in the lane and scored a basket on a foul. He sank the free throw. Then he swiped away a steal at mid-court and brought it back the other with a fastbreak two-handed dunk. Finally, he put in a mid-range jump shot at the end of the quarter. The Flyers trailed 35-33 going into the fourth quarter.
“They endured through an incredible season and had some adversity along the way,” Dixie coach Ryan Cuff said of his own players. “We got ourselves down and still fought hard to have a chance.”
Cuff said he’s proud to have coached this particular group of Flyers and he’s sad that it ended in defeat at the championship game.
Dixie sixth man Malachi Otis, a junior, said he hopes to use this loss to come back hungry next year.
“As everyone knows I came from Pine View,” Otis said. “It motivates me to come back a whole other player and whole other beast. I want to lead my team right here again. It motivates us and fuels the fire.”
Petersen led the Panthers in scoring with 18 points, followed by Wilstead with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Wilstead also had two blocks and two steals. Bennett was the only double-digit scorer for Dixie with 14 points. Hawes had seven points and nine rebounds.
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich.