South Summit’s Jerry Parker said the hardest thing as a head coach is to see your team leaving the locker room in second place.
He faced that reality Saturday night as the defending 2A state champion Wildcats were dethroned in Richfield by the South Sevier Rams 42-37.
The clash of the two best teams in 2A came as no surprise as the 23-1 Rams rolled into the finals against a 20-4 South Summit team that had won 19 straight games.
"Going into the game, we had a good game plan," Parker said. "(South Sevier) knew what they were going to try and do and so did we."
A final featuring two teams that average over 60 points a game turned into a slow-down, grind-it-out affair as both teams were tenacious on the defensive end of the floor.
After the Wildcats took an 11-10 lead into the second quarter, South Sevier outscored South Summit 5-0 in a quarter Parker summarized as, "We just didn’t get a couple boards and we couldn’t make a shot."
He added that going into halftime down by four wasn’t much of a cause for concern. But once the second half started, the Rams began keeping the Wildcats at an arm’s length with clutch shots.
"(South Sevier) did a good job of controlling the tempo," he said. "A couple breaks here or there, things would have been different. They hit some killer shots."
South Summit was able to get within three points a few times in the fourth quarter, but each time the Rams would counter with a huge play of their own; South Sevier’s Kaden King hit three fourth-quarter 3-pointers, which Parker referred to as "daggers."
The Wildcats were led in scoring by senior guards Parker Anderson (15 points) and Trevor Rydalch (12 points).
Parker said the grueling three-day tournament in front of what was basically a home crowd for the Rams was tough and he knew it’d come down to how well his team shot on the final day.
"I thought our kids’ effort was great," he said. "But I don’t think people understand what it’s like. That’s the hardest thing to deal with as a young person they understand, they know. They’re just an outstanding bunch."
South Sevier was the heavy favorite to win the 2A championship a year ago when its senior-laden team was shocked by a younger South Summit team in the semifinals. The Wildcats went on to hoist the 2A title as champions with their 38-37 win over Waterford.
The Rams, who have now lost just two games in two years, were able to get their revenge Saturday night.
"We did the same thing to them last year," Parker said of the Wildcats’ falling to an up-and-coming team. "South Sevier has a great team."
Not to be overlooked is the job Parker and his staff has done in the last two seasons, in which they have won 37 games and have a state trophy in the halls of South Summit High School.
Parker started coaching basketball at South Summit four years ago, when this senior class was a group of freshmen and he said it was particularly hard seeing his kids go out with a loss. He has been the head football coach for the Wildcats for some time and is more than familiar with this group of players.
"Coaches dream of having players that I had this year," he said. "I had them for two sports that’s very special."
The Wildcats lose their entire starting lineup and will have growing pains going forward. Having guard Matt Rydalch and forward Bonner Mitchell next year should help ease the growth process a bit, Parker said. This senior class left its mark on their younger teammates, he said.
"They’ve done a good job of grooming younger kids," he said. "Next year they’ll play hard."
11 Hauz, which opened last summer, serves traditional Jamaican food such as jerk chicken and shrimp, beef patties and fried plantains.