Being one of four teams with an early regional game opportunity, Cedar's loss to Desert Hills still ranks them higher than other teams without any regional games. Ranked No. 1 in the state on Dec. 13, the Redmen currently sit in Region 9 3A’s second place (third overall) behind Desert Hills and Snow Canyon.
If anything, Wednesday's game proved how tough Region 9 can be. Cedar shot 80 percent from the free throw line and saw Eric Nakken with 18 points, including two 3 pointers, Chance Bearnson with 15 points, and Kyler Nielson with 11 points. Even with such success on the papers, a slow first half that saw the Thunder go 22-8 over Cedar was enough to sink the Redmen’s hope for a victory.
Cedar even outscored Desert Hills in the third quarter and matched them point for point in the fourth, but the ending score of 54-68 was the ghost of the first quarter haunting until the end.
To their credit, and the victory, Desert Hills saw Jon Bodnar, Tyler Ott, and Brandon Simister each hit 16 points with Tanner Atkin netting 10, bringing the total number of Desert Hills' players with double digits to four.
On Saturday, it almost looked like a slow first quarter would hunt Cedar down again as the Templars, high off their win against Canyon View earlier in the week, put up an early 8-2 run. Bearnson and Nielson saved the day, pushing through 12 points between them in the first quarter to gain a slim lead at the end of the first.
A steady improvement in the second quarter saw Cedar up by 9 at the half. In the end Nielson put up 20 points while Bearnson had 16 and Nakken had 11 for the win. Manti's Jamen Miller came out as the top scorer for the game with 21 points.
Cedar will participate in the Steve Hodson Classic before facing off against in-town rival Canyon View on Jan. 5 and Snow Canyon on Jan. 7.
The regional season is just getting started and, even with the Desert Hills loss, Cedar is proving itself to be worthy of its 3A No. 1 status. Cedar will have a chance to get revenge on the Thunder on Jan. 26, but before then they face nothing but regional matches.
Pre-season is officially over and now every game counts.