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High school boys basketball: Davis uses late-game surge to win Northern Utah Shootout

Davis High players cheer after winning the Northern Utah Shootout championship game against Olympus.
Davis High players cheer after winning the Northern Utah Shootout championship game against Olympus at Davis High School in Kaysville on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Box score

Picked to finish first in their respective classifications, Davis and Olympus shared the court together Saturday night in the championship game of the Northern Utah Shootout tournament.

Thanks to a willful fourth-quarter performance, the Darts secured a 58-55 win to improve to 5-0 on the season and hand the Titans (4-1) their first loss of the year.

Reminiscent of last year’s playoff win against Layton, the Darts took their first lead of the night with 26 seconds remaining in the game to steal the victory. Davis trailed by as much as 10 and was down seven after the third quarter.

“I (thought) whoever had the ball at the end of the game was going to win,” Davis head coach Chad Sims said of his thoughts heading into the final quarter. “We just had to grind it out one possession at a time. There’s not a play that you get seven points on, so (we played it) possession by possession.”

In the end, it was Davis’ defense that got them the win, as it was finally able to stall an Olympus offense led by senior Jack Wistrcill and sophomore Dutch DowDell. The Darts held the Titans to just eight fourth-quarter points.

After a first half that saw the Titans hit seven 3s and score nearly at will, Davis players knew they simply had to do better over the final two quarters of the game.

“We made some second-half adjustments on the defensive end,” Davis senior Rex Sunderland said. “We were giving up too many 3s, so second half we just had to lock down on the defensive end. We were OK with tough 2s, just no 3s.”

Tough 2s are exactly what Olympus had to take for most of the second half, but especially in the fourth quarter.

The Titans struggled to capitalize on the increased aggression from Davis by shooting an abysmal 27% from the free-throw line.

Despite the increased focus defensively from Davis, the Titans still ultimately saw strong games from Wistrcill (16 points and six assists), DowDell (17 points) and even Luke Lowe (12 points, 4-for-5 from 3), who came into the game averaging just over four points per game.

Olympus boasted a easy-on-the-eye fluidity to its offense throughout the night, as they out-assisted Davis 19-5 and shot 56% from the field for the game.

But like the reigning 6A champs did so often in their title run, they were at their best in the final stretch of the game.

Trailing by two with 26 seconds to play, Davis’ Colby Sims — who finished with 20 points and kept the Darts in the game early, scoring 12 of Davis’ 14 first-quarter points — was fouled on a 3-point shot and hit all three free throws, giving the Darts their first advantage of the night on the scoreboard.

Davis’ Sawyer Cottrell dove for a steal on the next Olympus possession, which eventually resulted in two free throw makes from Sunderland, giving the Darts a three-point lead with 11.5 seconds remaining.

A tough shot by DowDell from beyond the arc fell just off the mark and the Darts were finally able to rest after a physically and mentally demanding fourth quarter.

Sunderland played his best ball in the final quarter, scoring eight of his 21 points. The performance in the clutch was a normal sight to those who watched any Davis basketball last season.

“Rex is a competitor,” Sims said. “He and I have gone through a lot of battles together, so I trust him.”

Though the game ended rather unhappily for the Titans, and self-inflicted mistakes from the game may haunt them, it certainly showed that the Titans are one of the better teams in the state, regardless of classification.

“Their whole team is a tough matchup,” Sims said. “Coach Barnes does such an amazing job, so it was a time for our team to get better because they’re one of the best teams in the state. … It could’ve gone either way.”

The gymnasium at Davis High was packed and provided an electric atmosphere that doesn’t usually come with a typical preseason matchup.

Sunderland said the crowd made the result that much sweeter for him and his teammates.

“It just feels amazing to have a close game finally,” Sunderland said. “The whole game was a dogfight and it just feels good to pull that one out. … They brought students out, we had tons of students out, it was great. It was crazy — butterflies before the game — it was a great environment.”