RICHFIELD — The Duchesne Eagles have believed since the beginning they were good enough to play in the 1A girls basketball state championship game.
They've worked all season, and they've enjoyed a tremendous amount of success. But they've also had to deal with the reality they were trying to overcome history.
Never before in school history had a Duchesne girls basketball team played for a state championship, and that fact couldn't escape the minds of the Eagles as they fought and fought with Panguitch in the 1A semifinals on Friday inside the Sevier Valley Center.
To be able to overcome history and get to where Duchesne wanted to be, it took a phenomenal effort from every single Eagle player on the floor. Down the stretch Friday, that's precisely what coach Blair Madsen got.
Duchesne got huge plays from a number of girls, and center Tasha Reilley made what proved to be the game-winning layup with 34 seconds remaining to propel the Eagles to a pulsating 46-44 come-from-behind win and a spot in today's 1A championship game.
"It's kind of like a dream," said forward Jessica Madsen. "We've been workin' for it, but I almost was afraid to expect to be here because I didn't want to be let down from it. I'm just on a high right now — it just feels amazing."
It's a feeling she gleefully shared with all of her teammates once the final seconds ticked off the clock at the end of what proved to be a frantic finish.
Duchesne had trailed Panguitch by a few points for most of Friday's contest, but once they were able to get Reilley and Madsen back on the court in the fourth quarter — they had been riddled with foul trouble earlier — the Eagles made their move.
Down four to begin the fourth, Duchesne quickly erased that deficit and started to trade 1-point leads with Panguitch.
With 34 seconds to go, Reilley made a contested layup to put Duchesne up by one point, 45-44, and the Eagles did enough after that point to hang on.
It wasn't easy, though.
Duchesne had to make stops at the other end, freshman Baylee Thompson made 1 of 2 free throws with 12.7 seconds to go, and Panguitch saw a desperation 3-pointer rim off at the buzzer.
Reilley and Tori Guzel each finished with 10, and Duchesne really got big contributions from everyone.
"The first two games, we had one or two girls that stood out, but tonight, I don't think a girl out there didn't shine," said Blair Madsen. "They played their hearts out, and that's all you can ask."
In the end, those contributions were just enough to overcome the stellar performance of Panguitch forward Kalani Roberts, who poured in 25 points and did everything she could to help her team win an frenetic and intense contest.
"We had our hands full with the Norris girl all night," said Blair Madsen. "We came out in a 1-2-2 zone, and they just tore us apart. Once we went man, it seemed like we picked up our intensity and took them out of what they wanted to do.
"I can't say enough about what great defensive effort we got out of our girls after that."