By: Keller Sherman
Featured Image Courtesy of Utah Tech Athletics
LAS VEGAS — Two regular-season meetings were not enough for these bitter rivals, so a third one it is. This time, the two teams will not be meeting in Cedar City or St George, but rather, on a neutral court in Las Vegas. Everything is on the line as the Thunderbirds and Trailblazers go at it for one last time this season. A spot in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament is at stake with in-state foe Utah Valley likely awaiting the winner. Will the Old Hammer Rivalry get a third stanza or will the Thunderbirds get another crack at the Wolverines? Of course that rests on the fact that Utah Valley handles business against Tarleton in the game preceding this showdown.
In year one in the WAC, these two teams showed why it might be the WAC’s best rivalry for years to come. The two teams split their regular season meetings with the home team winning both games. On February 4th in a packed Burns Arena, Utah Tech jumped out early and then held off a furious SUU comeback attempt to take it 86-79. Two weeks later in an electric America First Event Center, the Thunderbirds returned the favor. They got everything they could handle from the Trailblazers, but SUU got its vengeance in Cedar City in an 81-71 final.
Thunder Crew vs Stampede Part III
SUU and Utah Tech are the two closest WAC schools to Vegas. St George is a quick two-hour drive up Interstate 15 with Cedar City just another 45 minutes north. Both schools are providing free transportation as well as free tickets for students that signed up. Both fanbases should also travel very well as a whole due to the close proximity. A great turnout should be in the cards for the Thunderbirds and Trailblazers.
Blazing the Trail
Utah Tech played like it really wanted that third shot at the Thunderbirds in their win Tuesday night. That motivation may have been a major factor in an 80-76 overtime upset of Stephen F Austin. Much like the first game against SUU, Utah Tech can attribute their win to a massive night from Cameron Gooden. He led all scorers with 22 points and right behind him was Frank Staine with 18 points. Isaiah Pope and Dancell Leter also went for double figures with 14 and 12 points respectively. Another great chapter in this rivalry will be written Thursday night.