Region nine rivalries set aside for Red Storm hoops success
Published: Thursday, December 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2011 21:12
The saying "old rivalries die hard" could potentially test the chemistry of this year's Dixie State College men's basketball team. Four current members of the Red Storm spent their high school days battling in Region Nine, southern Utah's toughest athletic league.
Former Snow Canyon Warriors Dalton Groskreutz and Mitch Frei remember the clashes with Derek Owen and his Dixie Flyers. The duo also recollects the tough on-court skirmishes with Conner Atkin and the 2007 Utah 3A state champion Pine View Panthers.
Today, the quartet jokes about the old rivalries while focusing on the main goals of the Red Storm. Namely, winning a third straight Pacific West Conference championship and returning to the NCAA National Tournament. But lingering in the background, historical tensions remain present..
Reliving the Past
"I still hate them," said Frei, a junior guard and business administration major from Santa Clara. "I remember Derek (from Dixie) because he is big and he would block our shots. I hated playing those guys."
Frei added that the intensity of the games on Friday nights made them must-attend events. He felt the need to practice harder to perform under the bright lights and earn yearly bragging rights against the Flyers.
That effort later paid off with 24 points in a 2006 tournament loss to Logan High with current BYU standout Charles Abouo and a spot on the Utah 3A All-State Third Team.
Groskreutz, a sophomore forward and math major from Santa Clara, added that games with Pine View were classic hoop showdowns.
"Pine View was the classic rivalry, and Dixie was the ‘we hate them, let's kill them' team," Groskreutz said. "When it came down to it, whoever executed the best and played better defense would win the Pine View game."
Groskreutz scored 10 of his 22 points in overtime during a Feb. 7, 2007, memorable thriller over the Panthers. Later that year, he earned All-State First Team.
For Atkin, a junior forward and accounting major from St. George, his rival team changed between his junior and senior seasons.
Pine View played Dixie in the 2007 state championship game in a jam-packed Burns Arena during Atkin's penultimate high school campaign. The Panthers defeated Owen and the Flyers 45-38 on Feb. 24, 2007.
"Then Dixie was down my senior year, and Snow Canyon had Dalton, so they became the biggest rival," he said.
Atkin felt the rivalries stayed on a purely competitive level in his experience.
Owen, a junior forward/center and biology major from St. George, saw an ugly side to the rivalries, especially with Frei and the Warriors. Physical and emotional damage became commonplace on and off the court.
Owen said: "Mitch, in his senior year, pantsed (former Dixie High and DSC player) Kacen Smith and after that game, there was an actual fight. What made it memorable was that both teams were really out of control, but I loved it at the same time."
New Goals and New Rivals
With LDS missions for all four and Frei's stint playing junior college ball at Snow College behind them, the DSC quartet will now play together on the same team for the very first time.
Post-graduation, the foursome had a unique chance to let the past hostilities slide away. When each realized that his former Region Nine rival also chose to attend DSC to play basketball, a similar feeling came over each person; that feeling was pure excitement.
"Before I left high school, the bitterness of not liking those other guys left," Groskreutz said. "When you hear about guys playing at Dixie State, you know they are talented. You have to be excited to play with talent like that."
Atkin admitted to feeling nervous about playing with Groskreutz his first year on campus, but feels he has gained a trusting friendship with the former Utah All-State player.