Wildcats finish third in 2A hoops
Third place isn’t exactly what the South Summit boys’ basketball team was expecting when it was in the midst of a 15-game winning streak from the end of the regular season into the 2A playoffs.
After cruising to a perfect 10-0 Region 16 record, the Wildcats had their sights set on a 2A state championship.
Unfortunately for coach Dusty Hatch and his team, that wasn’t in the cards.
After a hard-fought 62-48 quarterfinal victory over Emery last Thursday, a team Hatch considers one of the best 2A squads in the state, the Wildcats had a letdown against Enterprise in the semifinals, falling 64-56 in double overtime.
"Our semifinal game was probably the worst game we’ve played all year," Hatch said. "I think it was partly the emotion of beating [Emery] in a tough game and then having a little letdown. [Enterprise] shot the ball really well against us and we made some mistakes defensively."
Though South Summit was able to make it close and ultimately tie the game in the second half, Hatch was disappointed his players weren’t able to get the win.
"I felt like that was a team we should have beaten," he said. "I felt we were better than them, but we weren’t that day."
Four South Summit players scored in double figures against Enterprise, with senior Steven Flinders leading the way with 14 points. Junior Bracken Santos had 13 points, senior Beau Rydalch added 12 and senior Brad Richins had 10.
The loss sent the Wildcats to the third-place game on Saturday, March 1, where they squared off against South Sevier.
After finding themselves trailing 33-23 at halftime, the Wildcats finally started playing the way they’ve played all year.
"It took us a while to get going in that game too," Hatch said. "We gave up 33 points in the first half, which is unusual for us. We usually hold teams to 40 points in a game."
Hatch told his team at halftime that, as long as they were playing, they might as well try to end the season with a win.
So the Wildcats battled back, finding themselves in a close game with time winding down.
"We were down by one with 17 seconds left," Hatch said. "We inbounded the ball on the baseline and Brad hit a big three."
The Wildcats would steal the ball on the next South Sevier possession, clinching the victory.
Rydalch led the Wildcats with 19 points in his final high school game. Richins added 16 points.
Though South Summit didn’t get to play for the 2A title, which Wasatch Academy won 76-47 over Enterprise to cap off a season in which it finished with a 26-1 record, Hatch said the season was a success.
"This was one of our better years," he said. "Those three seniors (Richins, Rydalch and Flinders) were great. They helped develop the younger kids and treated the freshmen as well as they treated each other that’s good for our program."
He hopes the success of this year will inspire younger kids to carry on that legacy.
"The success, the winning, is good for our program," he said. "That feeds to those younger kids the desire to improve and get better."
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