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Richfield • The pace of the Class 2A boys' basketball championship was torrid from the onset. Two horses traveling each furlong side-by-side, with the finish line rapidly approaching.
Leading by three points with 17 seconds left in regulation, Summit Academy's Darrin Gethers' free throw rimmed out, affording top-ranked Layton Christian one last gasp, but, unaware of the clock situation, Mark Burton drove in for two points.
"I literally started screaming, 'Don't throw the ball in,'" Gethers said. "Seeing the clock run and it was like at four [seconds]. Just screaming, 'Don't throw it in. Don't throw it in.'"
The Bears were untouchable behind the line, gladly watching the time expire to capture their first state title in only the fourth year since the school's inception, with a 64-63 win at the Sevier Valley Center on Saturday night.
Summit Academy coach Evric Gray slumped into his chair, peering off into the celebration commencing in front him. Normally reserved and straightforward, Gray could no longer contain his emotion.
"It's been a long season," Gray said, his voice cracking. "Our kids went through a lot of stuff. They stuck together and they won the game. I'm so happy for our kids. It's all about them. This was a tough game, but [Layton Christian] ran out of time."
The game pitted the top two point guards in the classification against one another: Gethers and Burton, and the two did not disappoint. Gethers dropped 24 points, 18 of which occurred in the first half, while Burton, who carried his team for long stretches, claimed a game-high 25 points.
"I told him that it's not the end of his career," said Layton Christian coach Bobby Porter about his discussion with Burton after the mistake. "That we may have lost this championship, but the main championship we are not going to lose, and that's getting him into college on other people's money. I told him, 'Don't hang your head.'"
Layton Christian opened the second frame on a 7-0 run, but Summit Academy immediately countered with its own 11-3 burst for a 31-25 lead. Less than three minutes later, Nathan Losee, not known for his scoring ability, didn't squander his opportunity when left alone on the wing, rattling in the triple to send the Bears to the lockers with a 37-32 lead.
While the first half centered on the backcourt, the difference for the Bears was Sam Velez, who at times during this postseason disappeared. On Saturday, the 6-foot-8 post changed the complexity of the third quarter with his presence in the paint, which included two put-back buckets and a rejection at the rim on what appeared to be a surefire layup for Ivan Kamili. Even when he didn't fully corral the board, he deflected the loose ball out to teammates, preserving the pulse of several possessions.
After another Layton Christian rally in the third, Armani Montgomery furnished a 48-41 lead for Summit on two deep jumpers, one with his foot on the line and the other well beyond the arc, on two successive possessions. Montgomery's 3-pointer off the pump-fake gave the Bears a 60-55 lead with less than three minutes left in regulation.
But Eagles would muster one more run, knotting the score at 48 apiece when Burton converted a transition layup and Nicholas Aguiree, who thieved three steals and added 13 points, drove coast-to-coast and floated a layup off the glass after a spin in the lane.
Shortly thereafter, Chan Hargraves cut the deficit back to three with 39.1 seconds left after Summit Academy regained its cushion. Layton Christian then intercepted the ensuing inbound, but proceeded to cough up its own turnover when Gavin Rindlishbacher stripped Burton on the perimeter. Gethers hit two freebies as a result, extending the lead back to five before the wild finish.
"I've been dreaming for this moment for four whole years, and I can't believe it happened," Montgomery said.
It was a race from the beginning, with each team making one last push, but Summit Academy winning by a nose.
Summit Academy 64, Layton Christian 63
R Summit Academy survives wild finish to win its first-ever state championship.
• Darrin Gethers finishes with 24 points in the win for the Bears.