2A boys' basketball: Caldwell's buzzer-beater sends Gunnison to final
Prep boys' basketball • "No doubt at all" that senior would clinch win on last-second 3.
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Cedar City • There was never any doubt.

Gunnison senior Colby Caldwell was on his favorite part of the floor and read the zone defense like a good quarterback would. He took one dribble, created the necessary space and launched from far behind the arc.

There was never any doubt.

The ball fell into the hoop, kissing nothing but the cream-colored twine at the Centrum Arena as the horn sounded.

Colby Caldwell sent his Bulldogs to the state championship game in cinematic fashion with a heart-stopping 49-46 win over Emery in the 2A boys' state semifinals.

"We're going down with him shooting," Gunnison coach Ben Hill said. "It was no doubt at all."

No argument.

The Bulldogs' leading scorer and silent leader had struggled with the feisty Spartans' zone defense throughout the evening. In the first quarter, he air-balled a 3-pointer. On two other long-range attempts, his release was noticeably off and he wrestled with himself getting back on defense.

But as the game wore on, Caldwell, who scored a game-high 15 points, started to find his groove.

And when it mattered most, a great player rose to a monumental platform.

"It's not the first time he's done something like this," senior forward Lafe Christenson said. "He's our best player by far."

The Bulldogs had the ball with 36 seconds remaining in the game and had a chance to see what kind of defense Emery would implore. The Spartans played into the hands of Hill's gameplan — the offensive setup was so good that Hill originally had planned on calling a timeout with 10 seconds left to set up another play.

He didn't need to.

Caldwell dished the ball off a few times before eventually getting it back with 6 seconds remaining. He created that space and stepped to his left, his feet lifting off the ground.

His follow-through was immaculate. The momentum from his shot carried him into the center of midcourt where he immediately was mobbed by a stampede of teammates.

The moment was his.

"I was just hoping it was going to go in," he said, shaking his head. "They gave me an open look — it went in."

Hill could do nothing but smile when asked to describe his star player afterward, the kid who sent the Bulldogs to their first state championship game since 1999.

"Colby is our quiet leader," he said. "He doesn't talk."

With time fading away into the February night, Caldwell's unforgettable shot did all the talking necessary.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani