The Dixie State University basketball teams celebrated senior night on Saturday, then another kind of celebration unfolded after the games.
It was a night of celebration at the jam-packed Burns Arena against Point Loma Nazarene University, as the senior class took the floor for the final time. Senior guard DeQuan Thompson, a communication major from Las Vegas, said that it was business as usual despite the games hype.
“I came in with the same mindset as any other game,” Thompson said. “Go in and get the job done.”
Dixie came out of the gates cooking. As a team, the Storm shot a terrific 66.7 percent from downtown in the first half. Junior guard Mason Sawyer was perfect from the field and led the Storm with 14 points at the break. The Sea Lions connected on nine threes, keeping them within striking distance.
PLNU closed the gap to 11 midway through the second half, before a 13-0 DSU run closed the door.
Junior forward Mark Ogden Jr. converted an and-one and blocked a shot on the other end, which led to a Thompson 3-pointer. This sequence had the capacity crowd at the Burns buzzing. The 4,052 on hand Saturday night was the highest attendance total of the season and most since 2013.
Dixie never looked back from that run, pulling away from the Sea Lions and winning the Pacific West Conference regular season championship in the process. As a result of the conference title, the Storm cut down the nets for the fifth time in the last six years.
Sawyer finished the contest with 18 points, and Thompson added 13. Senior center Zach Robbins had 13 and also notched a career-high 19 rebounds.
The seniors that were honored on the night were Robbins, Thompson, forward Jordan Rex, and guard Connor Van Brocklin.
Robbins is the all-time leader in points scored, games played, field goals made, free throws made, rebounds, blocked shots, games started and minutes played at DSU.
By season’s end, Thompson will likely have played more games than anyone else in school history, as well as having his name strewn throughout the Storm record books. Thompson has currently played 110 games at DSU and is top five in school history in all the following categories: points, field goals made, three-point field goals made, free throws made, rebounds, steals, and minutes played. After the game, Thompson was a little more sentimental.
“A lot of emotions were running through me,” Thompson said. “I felt so accomplished, so loved. It was a special feeling.”
Along with closing out the regular season in fashion, the Storm secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of my guys,” head coach Jon Judkins said. “They accomplished what they set out to do, but we aren’t done yet.”
The Storm, now 20-6 on the season, are now preparing for the tournament. They will face the winner of BYU-Hawaii and Point Loma in the semi-final at 7:15 p.m. on Friday in Irvine, California.
The DSU women’s basketball team also celebrated senior night on Saturday, but its celebration would be short lived.
The Storm, led by its seniors, started the game on the right foot, battling Point Loma to a 21-21 tie midway through the first half. After that, the Storm went cold, missing 21 of its next 24 shots.
Dixie State shot just 37 percent from the field en route to the 81-59 loss to the Sea Lions.
The three seniors combined for 38 points and 17 rebounds. Center Haileigh Emerine notched her usual double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, guard Kaylah Miller netted her 200th career three pointer while posting 10 points, and guard Taylor Maynes scored a career-high 17 in the loss. It was a night of mixed emotions said Emerine, a communication major from Spanish Fork.
“It was thrilling and sad all at the same time,” Emerine said. “It was exciting that it was another opportunity to leave everything on the floor, but sad that it would be the last game with my teammates in that gym.”
Emerine finished her career fifth all-time in DSU rebounding. Maynes wrapped her stint at DSU with 252 points and 272 rebounds.
Miller ends her illustrious career at Dixie after filling up the record books. Miller ranks first all-time in three-point field goals made, second all-time in points, and fourth in assists.
The women will not make the conference tournament, effectively ending the season. DSU finished their season with a 8-18 record, and will lose its leading scorer. Although that’s something that head coach Jenny Thigpin says she isn’t worried about.
“I’m so proud of our seniors and how they fought,” Thigpin said. “All three of them were great and we will miss them, but our younger girls are awesome and I’m excited to see what we can build on.”