RICHFIELD — Coming to Richfield, the Bear River boys’ basketball team knew it wasn’t going to be easy to pull out a victory against the top-scoring defense in 3A ball.
However, the Bears did it in a 51-50 dogfight Saturday evening.
“I told the kids all week that it was going to come down to the final shot,” said coach Scott Hunt. “That’s exactly what happened.”
Senior Triston Hartfiel made that final basket.
“I told him to just keep shooting and you’ll make the winning shot for us,” Hunt said.
Hartfiel hit a 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left in the game to jump ahead of the Wildcats.
“I’d shot some air balls earlier,” Hartfiel said. However, he said rather than let it rattle him, he just “let it go” when he got the ball.
Richfield lost the following possession on a traveling call with 1.9 seconds to go, effectively ending the game.
The Bears found themselves trying to find holes in the tough defense Richfield put up throughout the entire game.
“We had a heck of a time making shots tonight,” Hunt said. “They are a tremendous defensive team.”
The Wildcats were able to shrug off an early 13-8 deficit and knotted the game at 19-all by halftime, and led throughout most of the second half.
With 2:30 left in the game, Richfield’s Klay Turner drained a 3-pointer that put the Wildcats up by nine points. Bear River’s Nate Dahle hit the next bucket, cutting the lead by two, while teammate Mike Litchford followed up with a trey of his own.
However, with 1:20 left on the clock, Richfield’s Matt Griffin hit the foul-line for two more, keeping the ’Cats up by seven. It was the scenario the Bears had been preparing for all week.
“We used some pressure and got some things out of it,” Hunt said. By shifting to a diamond zone defense in the final stretch, the Bears were able to stifle Richfield’s shooting in the final minute of play.
After buckets by Hartfiel and Gunner Sorensen, Bear River was back in the game, trailing by two points. That’s when Hartfiel got ahold of the ball and fired off the game-winning bomb.
Hartfiel finished the night with 10 points, while teammates Sorenson and Litchford both had 14. Richfield’s Griffin and Porter Robinson both posted 11 points in the loss, while Jaylon Steck contributed 10.
The win guarantees the Bears at least two games as the 3A playoffs continue in the Centrum on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City next week. Their first game is against Snow Canyon on Thursday at 11:10 a.m.
“We’re excited to move on,” Hunt said.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org