SALEM — Riley Dahlgren’s 3-pointer didn’t create an overwhelming shift on the scoreboard, but as for the momentum shift — it was sudden and palpable.
With just under two minutes left in overtime, the Box Elder senior guard squared up his attempt behind the arc and swished it through, giving the Bees a 56-53 lead. Dahlgren’s team never let go of the sudden burst of momentum while the Skyhawks floundered, all leading to a 61-55 win for Box Elder in the first round of the 5A state tournament on Wednesday.
“Oh yeah, you could definitely feel it,” Dahlgren said of hitting the biggest shot of Wednesday’s fiercely-contested game. “But credit goes to my teammates for working the offense and giving me a good look. We did this thing together.”
Dahlgren finished his night scoring a team-high 18 points, with Box Elder coach Jace McKee grateful it was his senior guard taking big shots to separate things at the end.
“When Riley plays well, then we play well. He makes the ship go, so yeah, that’s what we’ve come to expect from him in those situations,” McKee said.
Turns out just about all the momentum was with Salem Hills, leading up to Dahlgren’s game-changing shot.
Down 45-31 toward the end of the third quarter, the Skyhawks managed to come all the way back, finally tying things at 51-51 by virtue of two made free throws by Hayden Madson with 29.5 seconds left in regulation. A missed attempt by Box Elder sent it into overtime, with Box Elder disappointed, yet proving ultimately proving resilient.
“We just told them we needed to refocus and concentrate on what we needed to do, and that we needed to get it done on defense,” McKee said. “And that’s what happened. We made them take some tough shots and were able to come away with a win in a tough environment.”
Indeed the Salem Hills crowd proved loud throughout, with the Bees apparently taking energy from all of it.
“We love opportunities to come together as a team, and we did that tonight,” Dahlgren said. “Salem is a tough team, but we loved the opportunity to come clear down here and play in this kind of environment. We rallied around each other and yeah, it feels great.”
Leading the way for the Bees initially was forward Parker Buchanan, who worked effectively in the post and penetrating from the perimeter to help build a 27-23 halftime lead for his team.
“Parker really helped get us going, and we’re used to that from him,” McKee said.
Box Elder set out on fire in the second half, ultimately building a 14-point lead toward the end, before Salem Hills responded. Three straight 3-point buckets made by Salem Hills guard Gavin Hardy cut the lead to 45-40, right before the third quarter.
Hardy ultimately finished with 12 points with Salem Hills forward Derek Burton leading all scorers with 19.
“We knew this was going to be a tough matchup going in,” McKee said. “It was a long trip for us, but I’m real proud of how our players responded. They enjoyed the environment and simply had fun. It was just great high school basketball played in a fun environment, and fortunately we came out on top.”
With the win Box Elder advances to the second round where it will take on Woods Cross this coming Friday.