South Summit basketball: Wildcats roll to another region title
Jan. 4, a Wednesday night, was the low point.
The South Summit High School boys’ basketball team had just been sent to its third-straight defeat at the hands of North Sevier, 60-43.
"We felt like we’d hit the bottom right there," said first-year head coach Dusty Hatch.
Three more losses would follow. On Friday, Jan. 13, the Wildcats were 3-9 and were left for dead.
But when South Summit faced off against Maeser Prep on Jan. 18, the Wildcats figured something out. Their 66-41 road victory was the first step in an astonishing run in region play.
Since Jan. 18, the Wildcats have won seven of eight — all seven victories were Region 14 showdowns — en route to an improbable region title.
"We had a team meeting and got some things worked out," Hatch said. "I felt like that really helped us. We just started to roll."
The South Summit alumnus and former player said the preseason presented challenges for himself, and his young team.
"It’s taken some time for the boys to get used to me and me to get used to them, I guess," Hatch said, laughing. "There was a confidence factor there we needed to figure out. The stuff I was doing was a little bit different than what they were used to.
"We decided that after the North Sevier game that we were going to do better and work harder and play as a team more. I think that’s exactly what we’ve done. That’s what helped us. We go into games now knowing we are going to outwork the other team and it’s helped us to win some close ones."
South Summit’s resurgence is in large part due to the development of the team’s younger role players. Sophomores Beau Rydalch and Brad Richins have been key cogs in the Wildcats’ hot streak. Hatch also said junior forward Garrett Crystal has been a bruising, undersized forward off the bench for the Wildcats, while fellow junior Jay Reidhead has brought toughness and defensive tenacity to the point-guard position.
This, Hatch said, has helped ease the load on senior leaders and leading scorers Bonner Mitchell (12 points per game) and Matt Rydalch (10 points per game).
"Our younger players have really stepped up," Hatch said. "That’s been the key. It’s been those guys coming off the bench. Winning is a lot more pleasant now."
Looking back to the beginning of the season, South Summit’s first-year head coach said his goal, ideally, was a run at the region title, but having such an inexperienced squad worked against them early on.
"I always felt like we had the components to be good, to be a region champions," he said.
And thanks to rival North Summit, which beat Waterford last week, South Summit was able to sew up the Region 14 title with a 57-48 victory over the Braves Friday night in Coalville.
"This is a great opportunity. We have a chance now to win this thing outright, which nobody gave us a chance to do, including myself," Hatch reminisced on his thoughts prior to clinching the region championship Friday. "I didn’t think we’d be able to it."
To make things even more interesting, the Wildcats’ first-round playoff matchup come Saturday night at Snow College will feature a familiar opponent.
The Wildcats, the No. 1 seed out of Region 14, will face the No. 4 seed out of Region 16, the North Sevier Wolves.
"We’re obviously looking for some revenge," Hatch said. "We feel like this is a great spot for us to be in. North Sevier’s a great team; we just played horribly before. We feel like maybe we’ve come 180, and now, we’re going to get our chance at them again."
Saturday’s first-round playoff matchup is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Snow College in Ephraim.
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