Mathews drained three free throws in the final two minutes and added a key three-point play in overtime as Desert Hills rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat Cedar 63-59 to improve to 5-1 in Region 9, 14-4 overall. The Redmen lost their fourth straight and fell to 1-5 in region play.
“We had 36 minutes of competition,” Cedar coach Russ Beck said. “If we compete, we’ll always be in games. We responded well to their runs, but free throws were our Achilles heel.”
Desert Hills’ rally began after Parker Haynie (16 points) got inside for a hoop that put Cedar up 50-41 with four minutes left in regulation. Braxton Porter converted a conventional 3-point play and Logan Hokanson – who matched Mathews with 18 points – hit a 3-pointer that cut the lead to three.
After Cameron Clayton made two free throws, Mathews split a pair at the line and the Cedar lead was hanging by a thread.
Mathews would then come up with a loose ball and collided with Ethan Boettcher, who drew his fifth foul on the play. The senior would hit both free throws and give the Thunder its first lead since midway through the third quarter at 53-52 with 1:09 to play.
Cedar would keep possession through a timeout, then after Keenan Nielson – who led all scorers with 19 points (16 in the second half) – missed a jumper, Haynie would get fouled after grabbing the offensive rebound with 12.1 seconds left.
The senior made the first at the line, but missed the second. When the Thunder missed on its final possession, the teams headed to their first overtime game of the season. Desert Hills would score the first five points of the extra period, but Nielson hit a free throw, came up with a steal, and converted a three-point play with 25 seconds left that pulled Cedar within 60-59.
Mathews would answer with two free throws at the other end, but Nielson – one of the better 3-point shooters in 3A – never got the chance to shoot. Drake Lewis’ game-tying bid from the corner would bounce off the front of the rim, and Tanner Turley hit a free throw with 1.5 seconds left that finished off the scoring.
For the game, the Thunder made 22 of 30 at the line while Cedar finished 12-of-23.
“When you’re down in the pit, you can lower your head and lay down, but we have to keep our heads up and help each other out,” Beck said. “If we keep our focus, we’ll get there. We’re playing better basketball and (Desert Hills) is a very good team.”
On Jan. 25, the Redmen couldn’t slow the juggernaut of defending 3A state champion Dixie as the Flyers stayed perfect on the season with a 63-49 win at The Hangar in St. George. Cedar led after the opening quarter at 17-16, but Dixie took control in the second and held on for its 27th straight victory dating back to last season.
Cedar was within seven points at 48-41 after three, but the Flyers responded and pulled away for the victory. Nielson led the way with 19 points for the Redmen, while Haynie and Boettcher each added 12 in the loss.
DESERT HILLS 63, CEDAR 59, OT
Desert Hills 11 15 11 16 10 -- 63
Cedar 15 6 19 13 6 -- 59
Desert Hills – Clayton 14, Porter 3, Mathews 18, Hokanson 18, Turley 6, Marz 3, Kunzler 1. Totals 17 22-30 63. 3-pointers – Clayton 3, Hokanson 3, Marz 1.
Cedar – Garrett 4, Boettcher 12, Boyer 3, Nielson 19, Brower 5, Haynie 16. Totals 20 12-23 59. 3-pointers – Boettcher 4, Nielson 2, Brower 1.
Dixie 63, Cedar 49