<strong>OGDEN—</strong> Heading into Saturday’s 4A state championship game featuring a showdown between two valley teams in Sky View and Mountain Crest, the Bobcat seniors had never defeated the Mustang seniors at full strength.
Sky View washed away all the futility – including two regular season losses this year to the Mustangs – as the Bobcats capped off a thrilling tournament run with a 56-50 victory to claim the 4A State title.
“This senior class, growing up, we’ve never beat them. We’ve never beat them with Eddy (Hall), (Tyler) Crosbie, or Moroni (Faimafili Lualu-Pututau),” SV senior Ty Nielsen said. “We beat them freshman year when they didn’t have Eddy or Tyler, but we’ve never beat them when they were at full strength, and that was our goal. This year, 0-2, never beat them, why not beat them in the state championship game. It feels great.”
In a game that was a microcosm of the entire 4A tournament, the second half went back and forth with each team trading blows. A little more than a minute into the final quarter of action, it was the Region 5 champion Mustangs that held a 40-38. However, a tough runner by Jalen Moore tied the game at 40 and ignited a 6-0 SV run.
Crosbie answered right back for the Mustangs with a deep 3-pointer as he pulled up with a defender in his face. The senior, who averaged 27 points a game in MC’s first two games against the Bobcats, finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting. That shot pulled the Stangs within one, 44-43, with four minutes remaining in the game.
“It was just a matter of the team that came out with the run at the right time. We had a little run there, scored some baskets, amazing,” SV head coach Kirk Hillyard said. “Bryan Dority came in and played some excellent defense. We played, once again, team ball. It took a lot of different guys and we tried a lot of different things, and made the right plays at the right time, made some free throws down the stretch. What a great atmosphere, what a great time that was.”
After some traded baskets, Moore gave the Bobcats a three point lead with 2:45 left in the game. Looking for the answer, Mountain Crest made its most costly mistakes of the game with back-to-back turnovers. The Bobcats capitalized on the second one with the seldom-used Dority scoring an easy basket as he snuck behind the defense and laid it in to put SV up 50-45, with 1:38 remaining.
The teams traded baskets again, and Sky View forced another turnover with 43.9 seconds to play. Mountain Crest forced a turnover of its own on the inbounds pass though, and Pututau was fouled as he put back a missed Crosbie 3-pointer. In what would become a theme in the final seconds though, Pututau was unable to complete the three-point play as the free throw clanked off.
“I think both teams, they just laid it out all on the line, and they made some shots when they needed to, and we didn’t take care of some possessions,” MC head coach Graydon Buchmiller said. “In close ballgames, there’s lots of things you could change, and unfortunately it didn’t work out for us.”
SV senior Matt Dewey rebounded the Pututau miss, but the Mustangs caught a break as Dority was fouled and missed the front end of the one-and-one with 29.9 seconds remaining. However, Hall missed a deep 3-pointer and Dewey again corralled the rebound – he had a team-high nine boards to go along with 13 points – and he went to the line with 18.1 seconds left.
Dewey stretched the SV lead back to five, but the Mustangs had one last hope as Dority fouled Crosbie on a 3-point attempt with seven seconds remaining. The Mustang star was unable to make it a one-possession game though, as he only connected on one of the shots and Sky View added two more free throws to secure the win.
“We weren’t crashing the boards hard enough, we weren’t hitting free throws, I wasn’t hitting free throws. I don’t know, it’s just a tough loss,” said Crosbie as he fought back tears in the tunnel, while Sky View sang its school song on the court.
“We knew Sky View is a great team. They were on a run, and knocked out some of the top teams in the state to get here. At the end of the day, we didn’t have enough – I don’t know what to call it – just anything to pull through. They were the tougher team today.”
Early on, however, it seemed like Mountain Crest was the tougher team as the Mustangs jumped out to 20-11 lead early in the second quarter. Coming off a thrilling overtime win in the late game Friday, Sky View appeared to be tired as they got off to a slow start for the first time in the tournament.
“I think we were getting a little tired. Four games in a row is a lot, especially at this kind of level, because you’re playing your hardest. That was a late game, we did get home late,” Nielsen said.
The Bobcats attributed much of their postseason success to the implementation of a suffocating full-court press in their regular season finale against Roy. Mountain Crest gave the Bobcats a little of their own medicine Saturday, as the forced Bobcat turnovers early and often to build the lead.
As they did all season though, Sky View continued to crash the boards, and generated offense with putback attempts. The Bobcats dominated in second-chance points with a 16-7 advantage. Moore finished a 10-3 Bobcat run with an exclamation point, as he spun around his defender on the baseline and slammed it home with a little more than two minutes remaining in the half.
“It was huge, because they came out and got on us right away,” Dewey said. “We were down and those second-chance points gave us an opportunity to get back in it and get our game going again.”
Sky View fought all the way back, tying the game at 27 with a minute remaining in the half. Mountain Crest tried to play for the last shot, but Hall’s threw up a wild shot with seconds left. Moore corralled the rebound and tossed up a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer. Trying his best to replicate Friday night’s SportsCenter Top 10 appearance, the heave nearly fell, but spun out to leave the game tied at the half.
“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be in this situation in the first place, they thought we were going to lose to Timpview,” Moore said. “When we got the lead, we started being patient, more patient on offense, and that’s big. Our guys act like they’ve been playing varsity for four years. That’s what we needed out of them, and that’s what we got.”
For a good portion of the Mustang players, the loss stings even more as many of them were also part of the MC football team, which lost in overtime of the state championship prior to basketball season.
“It’s one of those life things where there will be better days. You don’t dwell forever on the negativity of any of that, you just try and move forward. It’s hard for these boys right now, because right now this is for a lot of them, the biggest thing that’s happened in their life. There will be other big things,” Buchmiller said. “How they handle adversity and some of the things that happen in a basketball game and practice and through the season will make them better men. The biggest thing I think, is I’m just proud to see them grow up and be those men that I believe that they are.”