Dayton boys advance to finals
BY CHARLES WHISNAND
Appeal Sports Writer
HENDERSON – This ain’t no beauty pageant.
All that matters is survival and while the Dayton High School boys basketball team won’t receive any style points for its 41-32 win over Pahrump Valley in the NIAA 3A State semifinals, the Dust Devils are still alive.
“Definitely not,” said Dayton coach T.W. Cunningham responding the the fact the game wasn’t a thing of beauty.”I’m glad we’re on the other side of it. We’re looking forward to playing whoever wins the next game.”
That would be two-time state defending champion Faith Lutheran. For the third straight year, Dayton and the Crusaders will square off for the title at 8:20 p.m. today at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
And judging by the support of the large Dayton Nation, it didn’t care about any style points, all it cared about was it has chance to stay in Southern Nevada today.
For the third straight playoff game, Dayton met its goal of holding its opponent to 40 points or less.
“We did a good job defensively again,” Cunningham said. “And rebounding. We were a lot better in he second half not giving up second chance points.”
Dayton trailed 27-24, but used a 16-1 run beginning in the third quarter to take control of the game. Mike Vincent began the run when he scored at the buzzer to end the third quarter, making it 27-26.
Travis Wood scored to begin the fourth quarter and scored again on a putback to give Dayton a 30-27 lead. After a Pahrump free throw, Jacob Jones hit a turnaround jumper to begin a 10-0 run that gave the Dust Devils a 40-28 lead.
Dayton’s experience showed in the fourth quarter. This is the third trip to state for many of the Dust Devil players. “That’s the nice part about having a lot of seniors,” Cunningham said.
“Three points and a whole quarter to go, that’s really nothing,” said one of Dayton’s seniors, Erik Hopper. “We know we can come back.”
Once again, Hopper struggled offensively, but his all-around play was solid. He also hit 4-of-4 free throws down the stretch to help put the game away. He scored all six of his points in 6-of-6 from the foul line.
“Missing threes is one thing, but missing free throws that’s a problem,” Hopper said.
“Maybe a steal, just whatever I can do,” said Hopper about helping the team. “Offensively its just not clicking for me right now.”
Hopper said he’s more satisfied now with passing inside to Dayton’s big men, Jones and Vincent, for baskets than if he scored himself. Jones and Vincent again were solid. Jones scored 11 points, Vincent scored 10 points while Wood had 12 points.
Dayton took an early 8-4 lead on the strength of a Wood 3-pointer. Dayton took its biggest lead of the first half when Wood hit a three and Hopper hit two free throws to make it 22-17.