Orem • Dixie waited for a good shot.
With no shot clock in play, the Flyers held the basketball for almost two minutes.
Salem Hills senior James Nelson had had enough. He leaped into a passing lane, stole the ball before blazing down the court and registering a rim-shaking dunk that deflated the Flyers. Salem Hills muscled out the 56-46 victory in Thursday’s Class 4A boys’ basketball state quarterfinal.
“I thought our guys did an excellent job defensively, and we tried to prevent Dixie’s guards from posting, but Dixie kept coming,” Salem Hills coach Jimmy DeGraffenried said. “I think our season prepared us for how tough this game was going to be.”
Whenever it seemed that the Flyers were mounting a comeback and within striking range, Salem Hills turned to Nelson. And his dunk wasn’t the only jaw-dropping moment he dazzled the crowd with. Dixie was forced to play a full-court press to try to mount a comeback, but Nelson countered. He gathered the ball, spun around a defender and double-clutched his way to a pretty layup. Nelson finished with 27 points.
“It was a really physical game, and we’ve been in dogfights before, so we knew what we were in for,” Nelson said.” “On the dunk, I was just waiting for them to make a mistake, and I happened to time it just right.”
Dixie played a deliberate motion offense that relied on possessions, waiting patiently for open buckets. Payton Wilgar and Tanner Cuff led the charge for the Flyers, both landing a shot from downtown.
The Skyhawks’ attack not only featured Nelson but also Tyson Bishop. The duo accounted for nearly all of the Skyhawks’ offense in the first half, scoring 20 of the team’s 26 points. Bishop even managed a smile near the end of the game as his attempt at a dunk bounced out and back in.