Of course Bonneville won its 5A state quarterfinal game on Monday, as the season is unfolding exactly how the players expected.
“At the beginning … they were talking about a state championship from the get-go, they were talking about playing games in the Huntsman Center from the get-go,” said Bonneville coach Kyle Bullinger. “When you’re a high school coach with a group that comes in with not a lot of experience other than Carson (Jones), you’re sitting here, that talk can be pretty cheap in October and November.”
There was nothing cheap about Bonneville’s performance against Alta at the Huntsman Center on Monday. The Lakers outdueled the Hawks in a wildly entertaining game in which both teams shot above 50% from the field, and ultimately eked out the 55-54 victory in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup as Jake Williams converted a layup with five seconds remaining.
Alta called a timeout with 5.1 seconds left, but didn’t get a shot off at the other end as Bonneville advanced to Wednesday’s 5A semifinals. It is the school’s first semifinal appearance since 2019 when it was in 4A.
“I’m so proud of our kids, they played so hard. Alta’s big, Alta’s long, Alta’s rugged, Alta’s got a couple kids that are going to play ball after high school,” said Bullinger.
At one point during the first quarter, Alta’s student body heckled Bonneville’s point guard for his size. Bonneville’s students responded with a chant, “size don’t matter.”
It’s a mentality Bonneville played with the entire game, because the eye test clearly favored Alta.
“Size don’t matter, we knew they were taller, their point guard was taller than our 5 man. It’s how it goes sometime. We knew we could come in and beat them,” said Bonneville’s Koy Dixon.
Dixon had a career game to lead the Lakers as he made 7 of 8 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 23 points. He made three 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter that gave the Lakers the 51-44 lead.
Alta switched up its defense in the fourth quarter and Dixon didn’t have another shot attempt, but his hot hand in the first three quarters gave Bonneville the confidence it could thrive against Alta.
“I’ve kind of been struggling throughout the year honestly, I think just coming in I’ve got to step up for my team. My team has kind of been carrying me and everybody else and it’s time for me to finally do my part,” said Dixon.
Williams added 13 points for the Lakers, with Carson Jones chipping in with 10.
The game was competitive the entire way with 12 lead changes and six ties. Every basket over the final four minutes featured a lead change.
Trailing by seven after the third, Alta opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run to take grab a 52-51 lead with four minutes remaining. Bonneville answered right back to take a 53-52 lead on Jones layup.
Alta had three possessions to try and take the lead but missed each time, and then Bonneville spread the floor with two minutes remaining to protect its 53-52 lead. It kind of backfired when Alta’s Jett Lundberg stole the ball with 41 seconds remaining, which led to a Jaxon Johnson go-ahead layup with 17 seconds remaining.
Bonneville called a timeout, but Dixon said the entire team was calm during the team huddle.
“We knew we were going to win, 15 out of our 20 games have probably been like that,” said Dixon.
Bonneville missed its initial shot, but got a second chance after the ball bounced out of bounds and Williams converted the winning bucket in the paint. It was only fitting it came in the lane, because despite Bonneville’s stellar outside shooting on Monday that hasn’t been the norm.
“The 3-point ball has not been important to us this year, in fact our emphasis, when we’ve played our best, is when we are getting about 60%-70% of our paints in the paint,” said Bullinger.
It was absolutely critical against Alta though as Bonneville made 11 of 18 3s. Alta finished with 8 of 20 3-pointers, including three from Jaxon Johnson who led Alta with 21 points.