The sophomore point guard managed to break the South Summit press, dribbled to mid-court, then somehow escaped a ferocious trap and fired a bullet to sophomore forward Sam Kingdon alone under the basket. Kingdon's layup turned out to be the difference in a 41-39 thriller between the in-county rivals.
Played in front of a raucous Park City student section, the boys' basketball game was a tale of two halves: a low-scoring first half plagued by turnovers and missed shots, and a crowd-pleasing second half featuring a number of three-point field goals, at least one alley-oop, and a nail-biting finish that went down to the final shot.
"Both teams were playing hard," said Caleb Fine, Park City's head coach. "It was definitely a physical game and the refs let them play." He said only 16 or 17 fouls were called on both teams.
With only about 20 miles separating the two schools, the Park City High School gym was packed with supporters of both programs. They watched the home team take an early 9-2 lead as the Wildcats' only points came from a pair of free throws. The South Summit partisans groaned as shot after shot bounced off the rim or missed the basket entirely.
Meanwhile, Park City senior forward Ryan Sherman was a force at the defensive end, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. Fine said Sherman finished the game with eight rebounds and three blocks.
"He rebounds hard, he plays hard on every possession, and he's really coming into his own as a basketball player," Fine said. A captain on this year's team, Sherman leads by example, Fine added. "He brings a lot of energy and a lot of effort."
South Summit finally scored a basket with about 2:30 to play in the first quarter and added a second just before the buzzer. At the end of the quarter it was 11-6 Park City.
As if the Wildcats weren't frustrated enough, less than a minute into the second quarter their star forward, junior Beau Rydalch, was benched after committing his third foul. The half ended with Park City leading 17-13, as both teams missed numerous scoring chances.
"From our end, we're still not taking care of the basketball the way we need to," Fine said. "I think we did a good job of breaking (the South Summit press), but we did a poor job afterwards." He said the Miners took too many outside shots and didn't take advantage of their fast-break opportunities.
On the other hand, Fine gave credit to the Miners' defense for holding the Wildcats to 13 points in the first half. And he gave his players some of the credit for getting Rydalch into early foul trouble.
"Part of our strategy is to attack their best player and put him on the bench," he said.
With a minute played in the third quarter, the Miners held a 19-13 lead. But not long after that the Wildcats found their scoring touch. With Rydalch hitting from outside and in the paint, and senior shooting guard Porter Larsen tossing in a couple of long-range bombs, South Summit took a three-point lead, 27-24, going into the final quarter.
With Rydalch and Larsen doing most of the damage, the Wildcats built their lead to six points with about 4 minutes to play. But then it was the Miners' turn to get hot. Kingdon hit a pair of three-point shots and Sherman added another to turn a six-point deficit into a three-point lead, 38-35, with about 1:20 left to play. A free throw by the Miners and three by the Wildcats took the score to 39-38, setting the stage for VanDerVeur and Kingdon to team up for the winning basket.
As time ran out, the Wildcats had a chance to tie the game or win it with a three-point shot but Rydalch's buzzer-beater went wide. With a mixture of elation and relief, the Park City students surged onto the floor to congratulate their classmates.
"Our crowd does a good job of bringing energy," Fine said. "They kept us in it, especially when South Summit was pulling away a little bit."
Kingdon was Park City's leading scorer with 16 points including three baskets from three-point range.
The Miners were scheduled to play at Taylorsville Tuesday night, after this edition went to press, and then travel to Ben Lomond Wednesday night.
"It (the Ben Lomond game) is going to be physical," Fine said. "They've got a really good 3A team this year."