Riverton • It’s not a short drive by any measurement for the Dixie boys’ basketball team to reach the Riverton holiday tournament, even if the Flyers have won the past two years and want to defend their championship.
The road to a third title in a row was made a bit harder by Cyprus, which led at halftime before the Flyers rallied for a 59-52 victory Thursday afternoon.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘This is tournament atmosphere. We’re still alive and we’re playing as if it were the quarterfinals,’” Dixie coach Ryan Cuff said. “Now the approach is that we’re in the semifinals. So was the other team we were playing, so they were going to play with urgency as well.”
Dixie (8-1) trailed 29-25 at halftime as guard Alex Foster got off to a hot start for Cyprus (6-4), making all four of his 3-point attempts.
Tanner Cuff hit a shot to start the second half and start a 9-0 run for Dixie, which also got five points from senior Derek Cox.
Dixie clamped down on defense as the Pirates didn’t score in the third quarter until five minutes had elapsed.
“We just wanted to bounce back and make sure we got a win — and try to win this tournament again,” said Flyers senior Carson Bottema, who scored 16 points. “We knew we had to step up our defense, so we were focused in on getting out to shooters.”
Cyprus, led by Foster’s 18 points, went ahead 39-37 on a shot by Cody Meza with 1:10 left in the third. But Cuff drained a 3 then drove into the lane for another bucket, and Dixie was up 42-39 entering the fourth.
The Flyers got final separation from the Pirates by scoring seven straight points in the fourth.
“I think Cuff does a great job, he’s a good player for them,” Cyprus coach Tre Smith said about Tanner Cuff, who scored 18. “They have a talented bunch of kids. Honestly, I think that’s one of the best programs in the whole state.”
The semifinals of the Riverton tournament begin at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The championship is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.
What makes the Riverton tournament unusual is that it is a double-elimination tournament. Dixie lost to Kearns in the first day of action, while Cyprus lost to Cottonwood.
“I’m proud that we were able to rebound from yesterday’s loss,” Ryan Cuff said. “I give a lot of credit to Cyprus. I also think they had a tough loss yesterday, and they responded really well.
“I’m glad we were able to execute a little bit better at the end.”
DIXIE 59, CYPRUS 52
• Dixie, the two-time defending Riverton tournament champions, moves into the semifinals with the victory over Cyprus.
• The Flyers’ loss to Kearns on Wednesday at Riverton High doesn’t factor into who makes it into the final four of the tournament.
• Tanner Cuff scores 18 points for Dixie, which also gets 16 from Carson Bottema. Cyprus is led by Alex Foster’s 18 points.