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Cedar City • It was a moment 46 years in the making. On Saturday afternoon before a heavily blue-clad crowd at the Centrum, the Dixie Flyers delivered and made new championship memories for a new generation to savor.
Senior Tyler Bennett scored 30 points and the Flyers put down the defensive clamps in the second quarter as they beat Juan Diego 65-57 to claim their first 3A state title in boys' basketball since 1970. The moment came one year after a 46-43 loss to Pine View in the title game at the Maverik Center.
Unlike its semifinal win over Bear River, where it rallied from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter, Dixie had the championship game under control from the start. The Flyers fell behind early, but kept the Soaring Eagle grounded with just four points in the second quarter and led 25-17 at the half.
"Some coaches coach for a lifetime and don't have this experience," Flyers head coach Ryan Cuff said. "I'm just lucky to have great kids. All of the kids we've coached are part of this. I'm so thankful."
Bennett proved to be one of the best on this day for Dixie, finishing 10 of 14 from the floor and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. Even with the reminders of the last time the Flyers won a title and the loss to Pine View in last year's title game, Bennett and his teammates took a more proactive approach.
"We wanted this after last year's game," Bennett said. "We knew we could do it, we just had to put the work in and had a lot of fun doing it.
"A lot of people saying '46 years' was a big motivation to us, too."
Dixie stretched its lead to as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter, but Juan Diego made things interesting late. When the final horn sounded, Bennett and the Flyers knew the dream had finally come true.
"I've dreamed a lot about this," Bennett said. "In my head, I knew we weren't losing, so I just went crazy hard."
Between Bennett's slicing drives to the basket and two big-time dunks from Richard Guymon (15 points), the Flyers left no doubt about their intentions to bring a championship legacy to a new generation.
Even more valuable to the Flyers was the defensive work of James Eardley, who slowed down Juan Diego big man Maliik Fagan-Foster. Fagan-Foster finished with 21 points, but made only 5 of 11 shots from the floor.
"He's the silent leader. He'll do anything you ask him to do," Cuff said of Eardley. "He shut him down, and we knew that he could. He's so coachable and he's done that all year."
Eardley finished with seven points, three rebounds and three steals.
"We talked about it every day since summer. We knew it had been 46 years [since the last state title]," Eardley said. "Now it's special. Special for this community, special for our families, special for us."
Dixie shot 59 percent from the floor and added 20 of 24 from the free-throw line to finish the year with a 23-4 record.
Dixie 65, Juan Diego 57
R Dixie senior Tyler Bennett scores 30 points.
• The Flyers lead by as much as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
• Dixie shoots 59 percent from the floor.