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Small Ball: Dixie State's Adam Ross taking control on the floor

ST. GEORGE – There are few things Adam Ross lives for more than shutting down an opposing point guard.

The Dixie State senior doesn't typically light an opponent up with a boatload of points or a series of flashy passes. Then again, Ross makes certain that the player he is guarding can't do the same.

"I take it as a challenge because, if you don't take it personal, then they will light you up," Ross said. "Some nights, they're on fire and, defensively, there's nothing you can do. But most of the time, I take it as a challenge and try to slow them down."

His lockdown defense and steady hand on offense has made Ross a secret ingredient in the success of the Red Storm (13-4, 5-1) this season. He has started all 17 games for Dixie State. In 30.6 minutes per game, Ross is averaging 4.6 points, 4.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals.

Those numbers do seem modest on the surface, but they don't tell the whole story of the impact Ross has on Dixie State's fortunes.

Red Storm coach Jon Judkins credited Ross with bringing strong leadership to the court. He is the sort of player, Judkins said, that does all the little things that helps a team win games.

Defensively, Ross can pick up other point guards in a full-court press. On offense, he can speed things up to keep a defense off-balance. At both ends of the court, Ross counts on his strength and speed as a big advantage.

"That's one of his strengths is his toughness," Judkins said. "He's strong. He's got good size for a point guard. Guys don't post him up. And then he's very quick picking up people and pushing the ball up."

Dixie State learned a greater appreciation for what life was like without Ross when he tore some meniscus in his knee and missed the final nine games of his junior season. The Red Storm faltered down the stretch without their floor general and narrowly missed out on a potential NCAA Division II Tournament berth.

Coming back from the knee injury took a little while longer than Ross originally anticipated. The biggest problem was reestablishing the mobility in his leg and regaining his speed.

Those things all returned to him in gradual stages and, now, he feels like his old self.

"It's good to be back on the court and not have to worry about wearing a brace or anything like that," Ross said.

STAYING AT HOME: With a pair of big victories this past weekend, Westminster assured that it will spend the first two rounds of the upcoming Frontier Conference tournament in its home gym.

The Griffins beat Montana Western 95-77 on Thursday and defeated Montana Tech 75-51 on Saturday to clinch the right to host their first-round game and a potential semifinal game at Behnken Fieldhouse next month.

Ben Walker enjoyed a pair of nearly flawless shooting nights to help Westminster snag both victories. He tallied 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting against the Bulldogs and followed that up with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting versus the Orediggers two nights later.

The Griffins also got nice outings from the other parts of their big three. Blair Prowse and Wes Anderson each averaged 14.5 points per game in the two victories.

First-round action in the Frontier Conference tournament begins at selected home sites on March 6th.

BRUINS BACK IN FIRST:A recent two-game skid in conference play could cost Salt Lake Community College a few spots in the NJCAA rankings. But the Bruins made sure that the mini-slump didn't cost them an inside track at a regular season Scenic West title.

SLCC snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 72-61 defeat over previous league-leader North Idaho. Haley Holmstead scored 20 points and Allie Blake added 15 to lead the Bruins (20-5, 12-4).

Clinching a no. 1 seed in next month's Region 18 tournament at Price will likely come down to SLCC getting a victory over instate rival Snow College (19-7, 10-6) when the two teams clash again in their regular season finale on February 27th.

EMAIL: jcoon@desnews.com