Orem • Gunnison guard Mason Powell has the touch, the shooter’s touch that is.
Who else can take a 3-point shot and have it roll around the rim so long a 24-second shot clock could have expired by the time his shot finally went in?
But when it finally rolled in the basket, Powell pumped his fist as he ran down court and screamed.
He knew he had just hit a big shot.
Powell’s 3-pointer with just more than three minutes left in the game Saturday keyed Gunnison Valley’s 46-38 win over Richfield and helped the Bulldogs to reach the state Class 2A quarterfinals for the first time since 1999.
“He does have a great soft touch, and we needed a big shot to finally get going,” Gunnison coach Ben Hill said. “We hovered around being tied and then had a one- or two-point lead for several minutes, so that was big for us to make it a two-possession game.”
Gunnison had its way early in the first half. The Bulldogs opened a 15-5 lead, but Richfield wouldn’t go away. Brandon Willardson’s 18 points helped the Wildcats battle back to take a brief lead late in the third quarter after a 3-pointer from Jaylon Steck.
While much of the success Gunnison had in the first half was due to its guard play, the Bulldogs turned to their bigs down the stretch. Nik Roberts, who scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds, powered inside for two and Braden Harris converted a 3-point play. Another basket inside the paint from Roberts gave Gunnison a 34-28 lead to start the fourth quarter.
It looked like the Bulldogs would let Richfield get back in the game after missing four straight free throws, including a pair of one-and-ones. The Wildcats trimmed the lead to 36-34, but that’s when Powell hit his timely 3-pointer.
“The first half our guards carried us, but when they locked down our guards, we went power with our two big guys and they carried us in the second half,” Hill said. “Luckily we have versatility offensively that we could go to the bigs when we had to.”
Colby Caldwell made four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds of the game to help the Bulldogs advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals, where they will take on South Summit.