ST. GEORGE — The Coach Walker Classic basketball tournament is in full swing, which explains all of the school buses and teenagers around town.

As previously reported in St. George News, the annual high school basketball extravaganza is hosted by Pine View High School in honor of legendary Panthers coach and educator Darin Walker, who died in 2014.

Coach Walk, as he was affectionately known, had a tremendous positive impact upon hundreds of student athletes over the years after he moved to Washington in 1985. 

“This tournament means a lot to me,” first-year Pine View head coach Patrick Amico told St. George News. He went on to explain that coach Walker’s last year alive was the first year Amico was an assistant coach at Pine View.

Pine View’s Nash Schroeder drives against Manti in a Coach Walker Classic basketball game, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2023 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

“We almost lost this tournament. Last year we had so few teams, we weren’t making any money so they were saying, hey, let’s just scrap it,” Amico said.

“But coach Walker saved me when I was here. He’s an unbelievable man, unbelievable family, and I could not let this thing go,” he added.

Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills high schools serve as co-hosts of the tournament to accommodate all of the out-of-town teams that pour into St. George to play three games in three days.

“We’re using seven gyms and have 19 teams, so we’re really growing this thing quick,” Amico said. “But it’s all for coach Walker. I love that man. I actually had his wife and kids come talk to our team yesterday.”

This year’s field is full of talent as top 4A teams like Cottonwood and Ridgeline join tournament play along with the likes of 6A powers Riverton and Westlake and defending 3A state champion Manti.

“We have a lot of great teams,” Amico said. “Our region is the toughest region in the state, top to bottom and I wanted to play the best.”

On the floor, Pine View’s three opponents in the Coach Walker Classic are Manti, Westlake and Payson.

“Toughness,” Amico said when asked what he wants to see from the Panthers in the tournament.

“Just continuing the fight,” he added. “You’re going to be tired by that third day. If you want to win a state championship you have to win three games in three days. Just doing your job, are you boxing out, are you playing defense.”

Amico saw that very attribute of toughness in Pine View’s 60-51 victory over Manti in Thursday’s nightcap of first-day tournament action.

The Panthers (4-3) took a 17-11 lead after the first quarter and never gave it up, leading the Templars 27-23 at halftime.

Senior Nash Schroeder continued his torrid start to the season, pouring in a game-high 28 points for Pine View. Fellow senior star Griffen Shepherd chipped in 14 points for the winners.

Pine View is scheduled to play Westlake Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Pit.

In other tournament games Thursday night, Snow Canyon fell to Cottonwood after the Colts outscored the Warriors 6-1 in overtime to take a 59-54 win.

Snow Canyon’s Drey Smith drives against Cottonwood in a Coach Walker Classic basketball game, St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2023 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

It was Snow Canyon’s first loss of the season (3-1).

Senior Snow Canyon star Owen Mackay sat the game out as a precautionary measure after rolling his ankle in practice.

Still the Warriors gave the Colts all they wanted and more, taking a 42-37 lead into the final quarter before Cottonwood rallied.

Sophomore Reggie Mackay stepped up in his brother’s absence, scoring 13 points including three 3-pointers for Snow Canyon. Owen Iloa led the Warriors with 18 points.

Snow Canyon is scheduled to play its second tournament game at 5 p.m. Friday at Pine View versus Maple Mountain.

Desert Hills (4-3) survived a furious Spanish Fork rally and the Thunder beat the Dons 63-62 in the Thunderdome.

Eli Allred and Ben Chase each paced the Thunder win with 20 points apiece. Both players also sank two 3-pointers and snagged three rebounds in the win.

Desert Hills plays its second tournament game Friday night at 7 p.m. at home against Logan.

Cedar (1-7) got their first win of the season, a 79-76 victory over Slam Academy, a charter school in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Landon Kreitzer led the Reds with 24 points including three 3-pointers. Easton Albrecht (17 points) and Tate Stubbs (15 points) each sank two 3’s for the victors.

Cedar’s second tournament game is Friday at 5 p.m. at Crimson Cliffs against Manti.

Crimson Cliffs (4-4) managed just seven points in the first quarter and scored a single bucket in the fourth as Ridgeline lassoed the Mustangs 72-46.

Scoop Johnson was Crimson’s sole double-digit scorer, finishing with 18 points and one 3-pointer.

Jagger Francom led the victors with 21 points and Carson Cox and Khyson Buchmiller netted 16 points apiece to lead the Riverhawks.

Crimson plays their second tournament game Friday at 9 p.m. against Riverton in Washington Fields.

In a non-tournament road game Thursday night, Dixie (5-1) fell at 5A Orem 55-53 in the Flyers first loss of the year.

Senior Kyle Lemke led the Flyers with 16 points against the Tigers and Logan Weidauer (15 points) and Breckon Robinson (14 points) paced Dixie in the setback.

The Flyers led by six going into the final quarter but the home team Tigers got a double-double (15 points, 10 assists) from Chance Dastrup to defeat Dixie.

Dixie faces another 5A powerhouse, Timpview, on the road Friday night scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. tipoff.

All seven Region 9 teams will play on Friday night as Hurricane (3-4) hosts 3A Delta in the Tigers Den at 7 p.m.

Follow St. George News Sports and The Fan Sports Network for ongoing coverage of the Coach Walker Classic basketball tournament.

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