Cedar City • Perhaps it the law of averages finally caught up with Snow Canyon.
After beating Cedar City by three and two points during the regular season, the Region Nine champions finally lost a close one.
Cedar City, the Region Nine fourth place team, used sterling fourth quarter and overtime performances from guard Kordan Nielson and 6-foot-8 center Dustin Staggs to shock Snow Canyon 63-51 in the nearly full SUU Centrum.
The victory gave the hometown crew the right to play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for its first state boys basketball title since 1995.
The game also continued a rivalry that has gone on for several years.
“We could spend forever and every game we play is a close one,” said Cedar coach Craig Cardon. “Today is no exception. We are fortunate it came out on our side this time.”
The game was tense and close much of the way. Each team went up by four points in the final minutes of regulation and each seemed to respond to a loud crowd.
The Warriors tied the game at 48 on a shot by Chase Jenkins wit 50 seconds to play. Cedar elected not to play for the last shot and, when Nielson missed a contested layup, Snow Canyon played for the last shot. This time, Jenkins’ contested shot missed.
Staggs hit three of Cedar’s first four field goals in overtime as nothing the Warriors did seemed to go right.
That left it to Nielson and Kyle Wood to hit free throws. Nielson hit five and Wood two others to allow Cedar to pull away in overtime.
“The momentum in a high school game is unbelievable,” said Cardon. “We had it there at the end. We fell behind 7-0 to start the game but we battled back. We had all kinds of chances tolay down and die and we didn’t. I love our crowd and love our fans. The world is good right now. There is the old saying that you make your own luck. We played some very good defense and made some difficult shots.”
Staggs, who has battled Snow Canyon center Nathan Gottfredson much of his career, came through with the big shots and rebounds in the fourth quarter and overtime. He scored 13 of his 21 points in the final 12 minutes.
“Me and Nate had a battle going on down there,” said Staggs. “I had to step up if we wanted to win and come through and make some shots. Courtland did the same.”
Nielson scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the overtime and fourth period, providing the ball handling and big shots that, in the end, Snow Canyon couldn’t overcome.
“The close ones are always tough,” said Nielson. “We are similar teams, so it was great.”
But just getting to the final game isn’t enough.
“Coach Cardon said we didn’t come to play in it, we came to win it,” said Nielson.
Until the difficult overtime, Snow Canyon seemed to match Cedar play for play. Jacob Frei led the Warriors with 15 while Gottfredson had 11.
Morgan 61 Payson 46 • It would be easy to accuse Morgan of trying to steal a second straight 3A championship.
After all, the Trojans seem to be looking to steal the ball on every play, every possession and every full-court press. They are relentless. And the pressure eventually gets to teams.
That’s what happened in the second quarter Friday. Payson held an 18-13 lead when Morgan went on a 13-0 run. The Lions never seemed to recover as the Trojans just kept up the pressure. Payson cut the lead to 52-42 with 3:01 to play, but never really threatened.
Veteran Morgan Coach Jim Wiscombe said he picks starters often on the basis of their ability to defend. The Trojans employ fullcourt pressure constantly.
He was excited for a chance to play for a second straight title.
“It’s almost near impossible to repeat, unless you’re Lone Peak and have got those big studs,” said Wiscombe. “For a school like us to repeat, well....We’re not there, but we had a taste of it last year. We are going to try to get back.”
Garren Miles led senior-dominated Morgan with 21 points while Ben Saunders added 15. Daniel Reno had 21 for the Region 12 champion Lions, who finished the season with a 18-7 record.