It was a storybook ending to the Dixie State University basketball season Saturday night as the Storm closed out the regular season with a huge 82-67 win against Pacific West Conference frontrunner Concordia University.
A season-high crowd of nearly 4,000 showed up for the final regular season game, and it was not disappointed as the Storm won their ninth consecutive game, clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the PacWest tournament.
In addition to it being the last home game, Storm faithful bid farewell to the three seniors who stepped on to the Burns Arena floor for the final time.
“It’s always tough to say goodbye to those seniors,” a teary-eyed head coach Jon Judkins said. “We finished on a high note, though, and now have an opportunity to do something special. I can’t put in words how proud I am of this group.”
Forward Mark Ogden Jr., guard Mason Sawyer and guard Robbie Nielson were the seniors who were honored in a ceremony before tipoff of the pivotal PacWest matchup with the Eagles.
Nielson had his best outing of the season, scoring a team-high 17 points on 6-10 shooting, missing his career-high by just one bucket.
Ogden Jr. only attempted two field goals in the game, but he pulled down 11 rebounds, which tied him with Zach Robbins for the most rebounds in a single season in the DSU Division II era (266). One of his two shots was a monster two-handed alley-oop jam that had the home crowd buzzing in the waning moments.
“It’s obviously emotional knowing that it’s our last game here,” said Ogden Jr., a business administration major from Spring Valley, California. “The nerves kind of showed in the first half, but once we got into the locker room and got settled down, we really got it going. It’s awesome to go out like that.”
The Storm got it going indeed, as their two-point lead with eight minutes left ballooned to as many as 18 in the final minutes. Sawyer, a psychology major from West Jordan, played a big role in that run as he reeled off eight straight points to match Nielson’s 17 points and passed McKay Massey for third all-time on DSU’s single-season 3-pointers made list in the process.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out,” Sawyer said. “The crowd was great, and we made some pretty memorable plays down the stretch. We’re not done yet, though.”
The sophomore guards continued to impress as Brandon Simister’s shooting hand stayed hot, and Trevor Hill stuffed the stat sheet once again. Simister went 3-4 from distance en route to his 14-point night, and Hill finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists as he added the exclamation point with a ferocious baseline dunk over an Eagle defender.
With the win, DSU moves to 18-8 on the season and awaits the winner of the Dominican University vs. California Baptist University first-round matchup. The No. 2 seed Storm are set to tip-off the PacWest tournament semi-final Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Irvine, California.