PCHS boys’ basketball: Miners aren’t short on late-game drama
December 13, 2011
With his team up 63-60 with 1.5 seconds remaining, Park City senior Britton Buford stepped to the free throw line.
Once the 6-foot-4 forward drained the free throws, head coach Caleb Fine, who was looking skyward, let his head drop and his emotions bubbled to the surface. After the game, the former Park City High School basketball player and now third-year head coach was embraced by his staff and players in sympathy for the unexpected passing of Fine’s grandfather Friday morning.
His Miners escaped with a 65-60 win over visiting 3A Snow Canyon Friday night to improve to 3-3.
Senior Jono Schettler, who scored a game-high 20 points, said the win was one of the more special victories he’s been a part of.
"Especially for coach," he said. "We knew we had to win it for him. He was very emotional about it."
Buford, who had one of his best games in a Miner uniform, scored 18 points, added eight assists, five rebounds and three steals to his stellar night — and sank the second of two free throws to secure Park City’s second straight victory.
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"I started feeling pretty emotional with about four minutes left," Fine said. "It was a tough day for me, and when that (free throw) went in for Britton to make it I just thought, ‘Finally, we got a late one.’"
While the preseason schedule is still relatively young, the Miners already have been on the short end of down-to-the-wire games. Park City lost a buzzer-beater to 4A Skyline on Nov. 29 and lost close back-to-back games to Dixie and Desert Hills on Dec. 2 and 3.
So the pacemakers were tested once again Friday when Snow Canyon dominated much of the first half, taking a 34-29 lead into halftime. However, the third quarter turned out to be the Jono Schettler show as the senior almost single-handedly willed the Miners back to life, scoring 13 of Park City’s 19 points and giving the team a 48-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"We knew we had to come out in the second half a lot stronger," Schettler said. "We came out really slow, but we knew we could push the ball on this team and we did."
But the Warriors wouldn’t go quietly. Snow Canyon answered Park City’s third-quarter run by quickly jumping out to a 50-48 lead with less than seven minutes remaining.
Then, Buford’s size and athleticism proved vital once the game wore on as he drove the lane and assisted on consecutive baskets to senior forward Jordan Ruda and Schettler before being fouled and adding two free throws.
Park City held a 61-55 lead with 2:30 remaining, but Snow Canyon drained a 3-pointer to cut the Miners’ lead to three with less than two minutes to go.
What followed was one of the more impressive plays of the young season. Senior guard Kurt Melido attempted a pass to fellow senior guard Heath Vincent. The ball was tipped, but fortuitously landed in Vincent’s hands. Vincent swung the ball around to Schettler, who immediately fired the ball to a breaking Buford. The senior forward then lobbed it up to Ruda who gracefully pushed the ball into the hoop. With that, the Miner crowd went into a craze.
"I thought that was the game, but then I realized not quite yet," said Fine. "But that was a big play."
With less than a minute to go, the Warriors once again cut the Park City lead to three, then forced a turnover and missed two chances to further trim into the deficit. Once Heath Vincent was fouled, the senior rimmed out two free throws, giving the Warriors a last-ditch effort. Warrior senior Brayden Linde almost sent the game into overtime, but his long-range shot bounced in and out of the hoop before Buford went sky-high for the rebound.
"It’s going to build us up some momentum," Buford said. "We had a couple losses and that was kind of a bummer, but now we’re getting our wind back.
"This one really meant a lot."
Also contributing for the Miners was Ruda, who finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds. Vincent had four points, seven assists, three rebounds and four steals.
Senior Ryan Sherman had seven points and three rebounds off the bench, while Melido pitched in three points.
"Everyone looks for us to fold, which is a good thing for me, because we use it to get better every week," said assistant coach Lou Green postgame. "We have blown some leads late and we haven’t played as well as we could in some games in the second half. That label is kind of on us right now, but again, I don’t mind, because it makes our guys work harder.
"Can’t say enough about the guys at the end of the game picking each other up."
Next up for the Miners is a home date with 4A Logan tonight at Park City High School. The Grizzlies are 4-1 thus far this season and are led by Russell Murphy (18.8 points per game) and Luke Falk (12.8 points per game).
"Logan’s good, but so is Snow Canyon, so is Dixie, so is Desert Hills," Fine said, smiling. "For us, it’s just play the game, win the game and line up the next good team. That’s our preseason schedule.
"We’ve got our work cut out for us, but I like my chances."