In a back-and-forth fourth quarter that saw four lead changes in the final two minutes, Dillard outlasted Wasatch Academy 75-74 to win the Alaska Airlines Classic at West High.
Trandon Smith’s offensive rebound and putback with four seconds left proved to be the difference for the Panthers of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who were making their first trip back to Alaska since 1991 when they finished third.
The teams combined for 55 points in frantic final eight minutes.
Cody John pumped in a game-high 32 points for Wasatch of Mount Pleasant, Utah. He gave Wasatch a 68-67 lead after banking in a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Dillard came right back with Arthur Kennedy’s floater from the baseline to go up 69-68.
Wasatch scored the next six consecutive points, capped by John’s coast-to-coast layup, to take a seemingly comfortable 74-69 lead.
Dillard made one more run, benefiting from an unlikely bucket-turnover-bucket-turnover dream scenario. It all led up to the moment Cedric Wright stepped to the free-throw line for a one-plus-one opportunity, his team trailing 74-73.
Wright missed the free throw off the front of the rim, but the 6-foot-3 Smith swooped in to gather the rebound and put it back in for the winning basket as his bench went nuts. Smith finished with four points and five rebounds.
Wasatch failed on a last-second shot attempt. The loss spoiled the homecoming for Wasatch head coach Geno Morgan, a former Alaska Pacific University All-American who later coached for the University of Alaska Anchorage and led East Anchorage to the 2000 Class 4A state title.
Alex Baptist finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for Wasatch and teammate Geno Luzcando had 13 points, seven assists and six boards.
Dillard’s Keion Farrington had 15 points, 6 rebounds and a big dunk in the fourth quarter. Wright ended with 13 points and six rebounds.