The Tooele Buffaloes had the game plan they wanted in place, but missed shots and turnovers eventually led to the Pine View Panthers grabbing the 73-58 win in the first round of the 3A state basketball tournament.
Tooele and Pine View played to a defensive stalemate in St. George for the first 6:06 of the first quarter. Tooele held a 3-2 lead with both teams missing shots and committing turnovers. Pine View scored at the 1:54 mark of the quarter to take a 4-3 lead, the beginning of a 7-0 run to end the quarter.
The Buffs kept the score at 4-3 until the final 20 seconds. Following a turnover, Pine View scored to make it 6-3, and then a foul gave the Panthers a free throw that they converted. Another turnover occurred when Pine View started a full court press. Justin Pollmann was caught in the trap, and it led to another Pine View basket. With the score at 9-3, the Panthers broke open the game in the second quarter to take a 36-16 lead into halftime.
“It’s been the Achilles heel of our’s is that our offense dictates our mood,” said THS coach Shawn Faux. “We came out and played really good D, and we made some adjustments, and our kids bought into that. We finally saw that competitive nature. But what’s happened, especially with a young group, we missed a few shots. We missed a lot of easy shots, and then all of a sudden our heads dropped. Because we were so worried about our shots not falling, we stopped doing what we needed to on the defensive end.”
The Buffaloes started the game with a 2-3 zone to neutralize Pine View big man Kody Wilstead. And it worked. But then the Buffs were forced to play catch up after Pine View built its lead, and they never could re-establish their defensive game plan.
Pine View led 11-6 after a Pollmann free throw, but it answered with an 8-0 run. Tyler Lawrence stopped the run after he was fouled on a 3-pointer. He made two of his three free throws, but Pine View responded again with a 13-3 run. Eventually, the Buffs found themselves trailing 36-16 at halftime.
“Bottom line is I’m proud of them,” Faux said of the Buffs. “They came out, and they didn’t roll over. We’ve got work to do, and the beauty of it is we’ll be back because we’ll be young enough to get back and compete with these guys again and everyone else in the state.”
Faux said the future is bright, and that having playoff experience for a young roster will carry over well for next year.
“None of these kids, including Justin, had ever been to a state playoff,” Faux said. “Misses started with that state feel. You rush a little bit. You do some things that you normally wouldn’t do. So hopefully what we take from it is the taste of it. Now we’ve been there. We know what it tastes like. Now next year when we come back to this round, and hopefully we’ll have the home-court site, we now know what type of level you have to compete on. Hopefully the kids will work hard this offseason and want to get back to it again.”