It was a game dreams are made of — 46 years of dreams, actually.
It took a special performance from a special player to erase nearly a half-century’s worth of frustration, but the long drought is over. For the first time since 1970, the Dixie Flyers are state champions.
Tyler Bennett scored 30 points in dominating fashion to lead Dixie over Juan Diego, 65-57, and give the Flyers the Utah Boys 3A State Basketball Championship.
“I’ve had a lot of dreams — I’ve dreamed about this a lot,” Bennett said.
Those all came true on Saturday afternoon. From the very first tip, Bennett put his mark on the game. Juan Diego simply couldn’t contain him as he drove to the hoop time and time again, finishing in just about every way possible. He hit contested floaters and made acrobatic layups — the Soaring Eagle simply couldn’t stop him.
Bennett was 10 of 14 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free throw line in a performance that should live on in Dixie lore.
It was Bennett’s offense that got the Flyers out in front in the first quarter, but then it was the Flyers’ defense that clamped down in the second. Juan Diego only scored four points in the second period, and Dixie went into halftime with a 25-17 advantage.
After the teams traded buckets in the third, Bennett took over in the games’s final quarter. With Dixie leading 40-32 to begin the fourth quarter, Bennett went on a personal 5-0 run to give the Flyers a stranglehold on the game.
“He’s so special,” Dixie head coach Ryan Cuff said. “It’s very rewarding for his career to end like that. He’s so fun to coach.”
Bennett’s run put Dixie up big, but Juan Diego made one last push, even getting the lead down to six in the closing minutes. Dixie’s Richard Guymon, however, wasn’t going to let his team’s lead completely go by the wayside.
Guymon was huge late in the game. He made great cuts, freeing himself for wide open shots at the rim and his two-handed slam with 15 seconds left put an exclamation point on the contest and essentially clinched the championship for the Flyers.
“I’m just so happy for them,” Cuff said. “I’m happy, but it’s all about them. They deserve it, and I’m so proud of them.”
While the championship erased 46 years of disappointment, it also helped sweeten the bitter taste the Flyers had last season when they walked off the court in the 3A state final watching Pine View celebrate.
But it was that game that helped the Flyers know they could achieve the ultimate dream.
“Ever since last year’s game, we knew we could do it,” Bennett said. “We just needed to put the work in.”
Dixie went through the tournament last season as the Cinderella. The Flyers were the upstarts who needed crazy finishes to survive and advance. That wasn’t the case this year. From the very beginning of the season, they were seen as the favorite and they proved they were worthy of that title by cutting down the nets on Saturday.
“This is the best feeling in the whole world. It’s awesome,” Malachi Otis said.
And for everyone who has put on a Dixie uniform or cheered for the Flyers, it’s a feeling that has been a long time coming.
“Everybody’s that’s been part of it, we felt it,” Cuff said. “We felt that spirit. I’m so proud of the guys that have been through the program up until this time. It’s for them as well.”
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter, @millerjryan.