ST. GEORGE — Dixie coach Ken Robinson challenged his players Friday to prove they weren't just a physical team.
"The challenge was going to be could this finesse team play the physical game," said Robinson. "If you don't block out and back down to the physical play, it doesn't matter how tall you are."
The Flyers accepted the challenge, and now they're one win away from a 3A state championship.
In front of a raucous, pro-Dixie crowd at the Burns Arena, the Flyers jumped out to a quick lead and never relinquished it in an impressive 58-46 victory over Region 11 champion Bear River.
"We knew they were a physical team and we just wanted to match their intensity," said Dixie point guard Kacen Smith, who's quick five points helped the Flyers jump in front 9-0 just 90 seconds into the game.
Tyler Fink led the way with 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 8-of-12 from the line. Not bad for a guy who missed three games at the end of the season with a broken hand.
At the conclusion of the game, Dixie's student body started chanting "We want Pine View." They got their wish as Pine View upset Judge in the other semifinal, setting up what is sure to be a standing-room only crowd for tonight's 3A championship between Dixie and Pine View at 7.
"Anybody in a state championship game is a potential state champion, and these guys tonight earned being there," said Robinson.
Dixie's coach was particularly pleased with his team's attitude. In a quarterfinal win over Juan Diego, the Flyers played not to lose, but Robinson said his team came out aggressively against Bear River and played to win.
That can-do attitude helped Dixie jump out to an early 13-3 lead, but the Bears clawed their way back into the game and a 3-pointer by Taylor Bowcutt to open the second quarter made it a 16-15 game. That was as close as the Bears would get. Dixie capitalized on nine Bear second quarter turnovers to the lead to 24-18 by halftime.
"I was worried early, they got four or five offensive boards in the first half, and I was concerned with that, but we just hung in there and never looked back," said Robinson.
In the second half, Dixie started piling it on opening up a 36-23 lead at the end of three and extending it to 45-26 just a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
Dixie didn't just match Bear River's intensity on offense, but defense as well. The Bears like to push the ball up and down the court, but Dixie was just too good on Friday night forcing the Bears into 19 turnovers.
The Flyers weren't exactly stellar either committing 22 turnovers, but it didn't really matter, they shot 51 percent from the field compared to Bear River's 36.
Bear River's frustration mounted in the second half when a technical foul and a flagrant foul helped Dixie pile on more points. The Bears did go on a late rally closing the deficit to 46-35 with three minutes remaining, but that was as close as they came.
Bowcutt led Bear River with 15 points.