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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood boys basketball finishes as the 4A state tournament runner-up

Apr 12, 2024 01:17PM ● By Brian Shaw

As the season inched closer to the 4A state basketball tournament, Cottonwood Athletic Director Greg Southwick confessed to the City Journals that this might be the best Colts boys basketball team, ever. 

“We could surprise a few people,” he said, right before the state tournament and the conclusion of the regular season. 

Cottonwood [21-6] had an undefeated 12-0 season and won an outright Region 10 title. True to what Southwick said, the Colts had a run all the way to the 4A championship game that nobody will soon forget. 

It wouldn’t end on the floor of that UCCU Center in Orem until the Colts had lost by the razor-thin margin of five points, 53-58 to Layton Christian on Feb. 28. 

Chris Cox, Cottonwood’s star player who transferred back to the school from AZ Compass Prep in Arizona in midseason, had body after Layton Christian body draped all over him to slow the Utah State commit down. 

But, Cox (pictured here) was able to crack that code toward the end of the third quarter of the state championship game, keying an 8-3 Cottonwood run that helped the Colts overcome a 12-point deficit. 

On Cottonwood’s last points of that third quarter, a turnover led to a Cox attempt at a putback with :02 left, but he was fouled. Cox drilled both free throws to narrow the Layton Christian advantage to seven points at 36-43 after three quarters. 

All told, Cottonwood got back in this game thanks to a stingy defense. 

The Colts still needed a little help from the offense. But two good looks bounced out and that led to two transition baskets for Layton Christian. 

With 6:12 to go in the 4A championship game, the Colts now trailed 36-47. That’s when Cox, out of a timeout, had a nifty layup. On Cottonwood’s next possession, a coast-to-coast run on his dribble led to a foul and two more frees that Cox swished. 

Then, Cox blocked a shot. And with 4:27 to go in Cottonwood’s season, Cox spun and floated his 23rd and 24th points of the night to cut it to 44-49, the closest Cottonwood had been since the first quarter. This 8-2 Colts run gave them life. 

With 2:53 to go, junior Luke Park tipped the ball away on an inbounds play and got the steal but Cox’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim. 

A corner three from Layton Christian swished but with 2:06 showing on the giant scoreboard at the UVU Center, Park zinged down the court for a layup to trim the deficit back to six at 46-52. 

With 1:30 to play, the Colts played the foul game. Layton Christian got one free throw to go, but 6-foot-4 senior Peter Oguama got a putback on the other end of the floor. 

After two Layton Christian clanks at the free throw line, Park’s pass to 6-foot-1 senior Ryan Nielson for a potential three to trim the LC lead to just two points was too high and sailed out of bounds. 

A Layton Christian turnover kept the score at 48-53, but Cottonwood’s attempt at a floater wouldn’t go from Nielson with :45 to go. 

That was when Cottonwood got a big break. Moments after Layton Christian knocked down two more free throws to put the Colts in a 48-55 hole, Colts junior John Rosevear was fouled on a 3-point attempt, and with the clock stopped drilled two frees to keep the LC lead at five. 

Playing the foul game for the final :21 though, Layton Christian drained three more from the line to seal the loss for Cottonwood after the Colts had scored the final points. 

All in all, it was a great year for Cottonwood, who got a monster of a performance by Cox, the Utah State signee who for the final time in his storied career would have a game to remember. 

Cox had 26 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead the Colts. Rosevear added 11 points and Luke Park six. Oguama scored four points and had three blocks while Nielson and MJ Diemoz each had three points. 

Prior to the championship game at this state tournament, the Colts reeled off a win over Bear River at home [65-49] in the 4A second round and then hung on for hard-fought victories over Logan in the quarters [52-48] and semis [48-45 over Snow Canyon] that led them to this moment. λ