As the final buzzer sounded, Canyon View’s Brantzen Blackner ran down the court with his arms raised toward the heavens.
His teammates ran to greet him, coming together in a mass of hugs and celebration.
Sure it was just the quarterfinals, but this was a new feeling for the Falcons. They haven’t got to celebrate state tournament victories all that much. They made sure to soak it all in.
Canyon View topped defending 3A state champion Pine View, 60-56, in what may end up being the best game of the tournament.
“We’ve felt all along since last summer that this was the team to do it (advance in the playoffs),” Canyon View coach Rob Potter said. “But there’s a big difference between saying it and doing it.”
It was a game where every possession felt enormous and leads of more than three points were rare — the type of game you’d expect an upstart program like Canyon View to falter down the stretch.
The Falcons did the opposite.
With just over four minutes remaining and the score tied at 48, Blackner got the ball at the top of the key. He drove, spun around and finished between two taller defenders. Then, on the next Canyon View possession, he cut through the lane and splashed in a floater.
In a game where every possession felt momentous, Blackner wanted the ball in his hands, and then he delivered. And he needed to because the Panthers weren’t giving up their reign without one final push.
Pine View’s Cody Rusesh hit a layup and Kade Moore drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to cut the Canyon View lead to 56-53 with 52 seconds left. And after a missed Falcon free throw, the Panthers had the ball and a chance to tie the game.
Dylan Hendrickson got a clean look from 3, but it banged off the back iron, and Blackner, appropriately enough, got the defensive board. A few made free throws later and the Falcons flew on to the semifinals.
“We have a lot of heart,” Blackner said, “a lot of desire. We don’t quit. Every kid that puts on a jersey has a role and we fill each other’s shoes.”
And there were many other heroic moments from the Falcons. From Lorenzo Camba’s early 3-pointer that seemed to calm the team down to Joey Lambeth’s buzzer-beating jumper at the end of the first half and to Xavier Stoker’s stellar defense and post presence. It was team win and a return to form for the Falcons, who struggled to find their smooth passing ways over the last two games.
“I think it was great to get that play-in game out of they way,” Potter said. “We played so tight in that game.”
There wasn’t a sense of tightness from either team on Thursday afternoon. And, at times, it appeared whoever had the ball last would win. Blackner and Pine View’s Moore and Brandon Yates had their own version of a 3-point shootout, with the players answering big shot after big shot.
But in the end, Pine View never found an answer for the young sophomore.
“We’re headed to the semis and have a chance to play for the state championship,” Blackner said. “We’ve come a long way with this group. I’m happy for my guys, happy for my teammates, for my coaches and for my community.”
And that community came in huge numbers to support the Falcons. An entire section of the arena was filled by Canyon View students, and light blue shirts sparkled throughout the arena.
“You expect a big crowd and you look up there and its a little overwhelming,” Potter said. “Hopefully we are developing some heroes out on the court for some young Falcons up in the stands.”
Canyon View will play Juan Diego on Friday at 9:10 p.m.
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter, @millerjryan.