We have a really good group of girls right now. We are all really competitive. We know every team is trying really hard to beat us. – Panguitch guard Whittni Orton

Panguitch High School girls basketball coach Curtis Barney says he’s coaching a special team. That's saying something, as the Panguitch High graduate, in his 24th season as a coach, has led the Lady Bobcats to the fourth-longest winning streak in state history and longest ever in the 1A classification, at 43 games. He is also the winningest active girls coach in the state and second all-time.

“Everybody has talents in life," he said. "I think this is what I was blessed with. I’ll use it until it’s all used up. It’s not about championships; it’s about enjoying what I do and contributing something positive to the kids.”

Those "kids" aren’t just average teens.

“The girls on my team run cross-country and play volleyball in the fall, play basketball in the winter and compete in track and field in the spring," Barney said. “These girls are athletic. Practice is a battle; nobody wants to give an inch.”

Over the past four years, these young women have been responsible for eight state championships in four different sports, and they could win two more if they’re able to repeat as basketball and track and field champions this year.

“Playing on this team is so fun. Our team goal is to hold our opponents to 30 points per game," said 6-foot-1 senior center and reigning MVP Darri Frandsen. “There’s not one person on our team who thinks they’re the best. Our coach has faith in us. Even when we miss he expects us to do our best, and you can’t do much past that.”

The small southern Utah team has beaten several larger 2A and 3A schools in its pursuit of back-to-back state titles.

Before all the state championships there were lessons to be learned.

“When I first took over the girls program in 1992, we were getting beat by Valley and Enterprise every year," Barney said. "I realized that if we were gonna play with the big boys, we would have to beat them.”

Barney remembers some valuable advice he received from longtime Valley head coach Ferrel Heaton: “You have to demand the same out of the girls as you do the boys, and they’ll give it to you.”

Barney has done just that, winning eight state championships and amassing 383 victories at Panguitch.

“This is definitely a great team, and I’d hate to rank them over other teams I’ve coached," he said. "They are all special in different ways. They each bring their own uniqueness to Panguitch High School success. I’ve had girls win four straight state championships, so it would be hard to say they’re the best team I’ve ever coached. We have a target on our back. If you play long enough, eventually you’ll get beat. Hopefully it’s not this year.”

When asked how long he’ll continue coaching, Barney responded, “As long as it’s fun and enjoyable, I’ll continue to do it.”

Panguitch’s win streak could conceivably continue into next season with several talented underclassmen on the roster.

“We have a really good group of girls right now,” said Whittni Orton, a junior guard and state leader in assists and steals. “We are all really competitive. We know every team is trying really hard to beat us.”

Orton, the reigning defensive player of the year and three-time state cross-country champion, knows games are won on both ends of the court.

“Defense is my favorite. I feel more accomplished when I get a steal rather than a score," Orton said. "I have a lot of energy and feel like I’m in better shape than others. I’ve been told I’m kind of annoying.”

The Lady Bobcats are never in idle mode, running 15 to 20 miles per week in the summer to train for cross-country and playing 30 to 40 basketball games at camps in St. George and California.

“Our team is really unselfish and we share the ball really well,” said Orton. “We all get along really well.”

Kirk Grant is a native of Duchesne, Utah, and a graduate of Utah State University.