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High school basketball: Familiar 1A contenders face tests in first round

RICHFIELD — The "favored" schools heading in to this week's 1A girls basketball tournament at the Sevier Valley Center aren't exactly unknown commodities.

Indeed, Piute High, Panguitch High, Rich High and Duchesne High have all enjoyed tremendous success in athletics over the years, and strictly from that point of view, it's hardly shocking that their respective schools are amongst the favorites to win a 1A girls basketball championship at the end of this week.

To this point, all four of those schools have put together really solid seasons, and now they'll test themselves against the rest of the 1A field.

Rich coach Scott Ferguson — whose Rebels are the classification's two-time defending champs — will be the first to point out that any 1A team could lose at any point in the tournament and that schools like Whitehorse, Monticello, Altamont and St. Joseph could wreak havoc on the rest of the field.

But Ferguson doesn't disagree with the notion that Piute, Panguitch, Rich and Duchesne deserve top billing.

"Yeah, I think so," said Ferguson when asked if those four schools are the four front-runners, "just because of what they've done in the past and kind of what they've done so far this year."

We'll start to find out the definitive answer to the question of whether they're the favorites today, when the 1A tournament commences with eight first-round games inside the Sevier Valley Center.

At the top, it starts with top-ranked Piute, which enters this week's tournament with an unblemished 20-0 record.

The T-Birds — in search of their first girls basketball state title in school history — beat three 2A schools back in the preseason and then went undefeated in perennially difficult Region 20.

Kandice Gleave leads Piute offensively with 17.65 points per game, while Amanda Bagley and Loni Allan add 14.50 and 11.45, respectively.

"I think that Piute's the favorite," said Ferguson. "They're pretty much playin' the same girls they played three years ago. Most of them started as sophomores — one started as a freshman — and so they've played together for three years and they really know each other — know what each other's gonna do.

"From what it looks like, they're really playing well as a team, which you've heard maybe they didn't do so much in the past but I do think they're playing very well right now."

NOTE: Try predicting the winner of the 1A state tournament by entering the DESERET HOOPS PICKS CONTEST.

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com