RICHFIELD – Trevor Rydalch wanted to find redemption after missing his first six free throw attempts. South Summit wanted one more basket as the final seconds ticked off the game clock and the Wildcats trailed South Sevier by a single point.
Both those needs converged in an instant when Rydalch had the ball in his hands and faced an oncoming swarm of defenders in the lane. Both needs were met.
As if he were acting out a scene from a movie script, Rydalch unleashed a floater in traffic for a dramatic go-ahead basket with 3.8 seconds left. It was enough to lift South Summit to a 62-59 victory over the previously unbeaten Rams in 2A boys basketball tournament on Friday night at the Sevier Valley Center.
"I'm just glad I could make that one," Rydalch said. "I mean I couldn't hit a free throw in the first half, but I made the shot that counted at the end."
Jacob Flinders added a pair of free throws with 3.2 seconds left after Rydalch put the Wildcats ahead 60-59 and the Rams were unable to get off a final shot before the buzzer.
Rydalch finished with 12 points and was part of a balanced offensive attack for the Wildcats. Judd Rydalch led the way with 14 points. Parker Anderson added 13 and Levi Thompson chipped in 10 to help South Summit reach the 2A championship game and have a shot at claiming its first state title since winning the 1A championship in 1976.
Getting a shot at state title appeared like it might slip out of the Wildcats' grasp in the third quarter. After Robbie Rydalch hit a jumper to make it 32-28 less than a minute into the quarter, South Sevier made a series of mini-runs to try and wear down the Wildcats.
Dillon Bishoff – who finished with a game-high 26 points – fueled scored on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to eight. He then scored a layup off an offensive rebound and hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Rams a nine-point cushion at 39-30 with 5:03 left in the quarter.
South Sevier still led by eight with 1:42 remaining in the third after Jace Mecham hit a jumper to make it 44-36 for the Rams. But the Wildcats found the offensive spark they needed as the fourth quarter opened.
Parker Anderson drilled a 3-pointer just 16 seconds into the quarter to bring South Summit back within two and hit another with 5:51 remaining in the game to give the Wildcats a 45-44 lead.
From that point on, the lead changed hands several times. Bishoff and McKay Blackburn did their best to keep South Sevier one step ahead. Bishoff scored a layup and Blackburn put down another to put the Rams up 54-52 with 2:30 remaining.
South Sevier also hit five of six free throws in the final minute. The lone miss – by Bishoff with 23.2 seconds left – proved costly. Robbie Rydalch snagged the rebound and the Wildcats called timeout with 8.9 seconds remaining and set up Trevor Rydalch's game winner.
Trevor Rydalch said that the defensive pressure South Summit applied in the fourth quarter made all the difference. The Rams made just three field goals in the quarter and had a hard time getting clean looks at the basket.
"We tried to make sure they didn't get too many open looks because, if you leave them open, they don't miss," Rydalch said.
South Summit found a way to survive random scoring outbursts from South Sevier through all four quarters by keeping its composure and making defensive adjustments. After the Rams repeatedly snagged offensive rebounds and scored second-chance baskets in the first half, the Wildcats worked harder to box out after halftime and take that scoring avenue away.
The biggest thing from the perspective of South Summit coach Jerry Parker is that his team kept calm even as it stayed a one possession game down into the final minutes and seconds.
"These kids have been awesome," Parker said. "They have played like that all year – with lots of heart. It's just been wonderful to watch them battle."