NICE TRY — Kevin Zabawa of S-GI blocks a Pioneer player’s shot, during the Feb. 13 match. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — The stage was set for senior night, against rival Pioneer. When the final buzzer went off, the Springville-Griffith Institute boys varsity basketball bowed, following a 64-61 comeback win over Pioneer on Feb. 13.
“[I was asked] before the season ever started how important it was going to be to have senior leadership on the floor, this year,” said Springville coach Frank Noeson. “This win answered that question emphatically.”
The Griffs were able to battle back after being down by 10 points in the fourth quarter, to improve to 6-12, on the year.
“Before this one, we had played eight games decided by 10 points or fewer,” said Noeson. “Having played in so many close games this year, the guys are really improving, in late-game situations. Our team counts on our seniors. We also have a sophomore who is exhibiting the maturity of a senior, on the floor. We knew after our first meeting with Pioneer that it would be another close game. It’s Pioneer; it’s different than any normal game. I’m proud of the guys for battling back.”
Springville trailed by 54-44, early in the fourth quarter, but slowly started to chip away at Pioneer’s lead. Nate Wolcott slashed through the paint for a bucket and then Greg Beatty used a screen to hit a 3-pointer from the wing that brought Springville within 54-50, with 6 minutes and 10 seconds left. Minutes later, Wolcott hit a pair at the foul line and then Adam Wolfley finished off a drive, to bring Springville within 1.
THAT BALL IS MINE — Nate Wolcott of S-GI takes on Pioneer’s Dominic Sayvone as the two battle for the ball during the senior night match.
Pioneer would hold a slim lead for the next two minutes, until Beatty hit another 3-pointer, to tie the game at 59-59. The Griffs followed that up with a defensive stop and Kyle Warner connected on a midrange jumper from the corner, with 47 seconds left, to give Springville the first lead since the second quarter 61-59.
The visiting Panthers answered quickly, finishing a layup off a ball screen. Springville came out of a timeout and Warner got a step on his defender, caught the ball near the low block, spun baseline and finished off the glass, to put the Griffs up 63-61 with 12 seconds left.
“That felt great,” said Warner. “I wasn’t really playing well, the first three quarters. It was tough. I fought, caught the ball, turned, got hit pretty hard and it just fell.”
Pioneer traveled on that ensuing possession and Springville would prevail 64-61, adding a late free throw. Warner scored Springville’s final 5 points of the game, including the game-winner.
“That was awesome,” said Springville senior guard Wolcott. “It’s Kyle Warner. He’s just a sophomore, but he’s really been helping us out lately. He came up huge for us. Having a guy like him on our team is a great help.”
Springville withstood the hot shooting by Pioneer. The visiting Panthers knocked down 8 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 10 for the game. They led 33-30 at halftime, with 9 points coming from inside the three-point line or from the foul line.
“It was ridiculous; it was like they were going to shoot us out of the gym,” said Beatty. “We didn’t let it get to us and kept on pushing. We really battled.”
Pioneer’s Ravo Root finished with 17 points, 15 in the first half. Bryce Little had 13 points, 11 in the first half, on 3 made 3-pointers.
“Root and Little both shot the ball amazingly from three, in the first half,” said Noeson of Pioneer’s 3-point marksmen. “Many of them weren’t right from at the line either; they were deep, so we knew they’d eventually cool off. We switched back and forth a few times, between man and zone. Overall, we didn’t play well defensively, in the first half. We got caught chasing, and played ball screens poorly. The second half, we obviously played closer to Root and Little, away from the ball, and played much better man to man defense.”
Pioneer edged out Springville 45-38 back in January, but the Griffs were able to shore up their defense in the second half and get timely buckets on the offensive end, to split the season series.
“In that fourth quarter, we finally played D like we’re capable of,” said Noeson. “We were active and aggressive and forced them into a bunch of turnovers. Offensively, we came back as a team. It wasn’t one person.”
Springville had four players in double figures, for the first time this season. Beatty led with 17 points, Warner had 12, while Wolcott and Wolfley each had 11 points. Bobby Fisher had 7 points.
Springville is built around seven seniors who played their final home game of their varsity careers against Pioneer. The senior core has led Springville to their best season since 2009.
“I really couldn’t be happier for these seniors,” said Noeson. “It’s really a testament to their character and the heart that they’ve played with all year, to finish in this fashion. All season, they’ve battled to the end, regardless of the situation. I think, for them, it was really special for their last home game ever to be a comeback win against rival Pioneer.”
“There’s no better feeling in the world,” said Beatty, on taking down Pioneer on senior night. “We were looking forward to this game, all year. It’s Pioneer. Everyone wants to beat Pioneer, especially on our home court, on senior night, in our last regular-season game of the year. It was just unbelievable.”
The win improved Springville’s seeding in the playoffs. Springville, at 10, with six-12 in league, traveled to South Park at 7, eight-10 in league, on Feb. 19 for the pre-quarterfinals of the Section VI A-2 playoffs.