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High school basketball: No. 1 Piute overcomes slow start to beat ICS in 1A quarterfinals

RICHFIELD — Less than two minutes into the second half of their 1A quarterfinal tilt against ICS, the top-ranked Piute Thunderbirds looked up at the scoreboard and saw the following: Piute 20, ICS 16.

To be leading by four points in the second half of a quarterfinal playoff game isn't the worst thing in the world. But more worrying than the close score was the fact that, up to that point, the T-Birds were played nothing like the high-flying 21-0 team that they were.

They were missing free throws, they were missing easy shots, they were turning the ball and they were struggling to keep the Lions from getting to the basket at the other end.

"It's like," Piute coach Wade Westwood succinctly said afterward, "our feet were cemented to the floor."

But the T-Birds didn't panic.

They kept trying and trying to get going, and eventually they did enough to make sure a big upset didn't happen.

Playing well enough in the third quarter to get a little separation, Piute ripped open a nerve-racking game in the fourth quarter to win with a much-closer-than-it-sounded score of 52-28 on Thursday inside the Sevier Valley Center.

"We just came out and just started to play," said Piute star guard Kandice Gleave, who scored 19 points to lead the T-Birds. "We had to hit the kill switch because there's no way we're gonna lose. We had to pick it up, and definitely in the second half we did better with that."

No. 1 Piute will meet two-time defending champ Rich in a highly-anticipated 1A semifinal showdown at 7:30 tonight.

After allowing scrappy ICS to pull within four points early in the third quarter, the T-Birds finally started to get going in the 1A quarterfinals Thursday.

They managed to build up a lead of 12 points at the end of the third quarter and then ripped off a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to permanently take control.

When things weren't going well earlier, Gleave said the veteran T-Birds weren't scared of what could happen.

"We haven't really been a panicky sort of team throughout the years because we believe in each other and we know that we're gonna catch back up," said Gleave. "It's just a matter of gettin' it done. We were just really slow to start workin', (but) once we got going, we did good."

Besides Gleave, star center Amanda Bagley added 14 points for the T-Birds.

On the other hand, Jennifer Horak led ICS with 19 points. Afterward, Westwood went out of his way to praise her play and the play of ICS.

"I think Intermountain Christian — I don't know if they do that against all of their opponents — but I think they had a good game plan," said Westwood.