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High school girls basketball: Panguitch looks to remain unbeaten, win back-to-back 1A titles

RICHFIELD — Panguitch girls basketball coach Curtis Barney is no stranger to success. In fact, he is the state’s winningest active girls basketball coach and ranks second all time.

The 22-year seasoned coach has amassed a staggering eight 1A state championships and 390 victories as he single-handedly put the Panguitch girls basketball program on the map.

“Everybody has talents in life,” Barney 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.”

Over the last few years, however, Barney knew what a special group he had in front of him, and boy, was his intuition on point.

Following an undefeated season that ended with a 1A state championship (2014), Barney has now led Panguitch to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and will look to add back-to-back state championships to the list as well, making the Bobcats one of the most feared and respected programs in all of 1A.

“I’ve seen them (Panguitch) play on tape, and they are as dominating as any team I have seen relative to this level. They play great defense; I think their closest game this year was a 21-point win,” St. Joseph coach Joe Cravens said. “I don’t know how else to describe them other than they are just flat-out dominant. They just overwhelm teams with their tremendous talent and athleticism.”

Now, as the top-ranked heavy favorites prepare to fight for their second-straight 1A state championship and extend their impeccable winning streak to a dominant 51 games (last loss came in 2013), the Bobcats have an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.

The defending champs have four players who all average more than 10 points per game and must continue to rely on their dynamic duo of senior reigning MVP and double-double machine Darri Frandsen (17.1 ppg, 13.2 rpg) and junior star guard and state leader in assists and steals Whittni Orton (13.4 ppg, 6.9 apg, 5.8 spg) to get their team rolling and to the 1A throne.

Taylor Bennett (13.2 ppg) and Chesney Campbell (12.2 ppg) should also provide the defending champs with a much-needed spark with all of the attention on Frandsen and Owens and help fuel 1A’s top scoring offense and defense.

“We have a really good group of girls right now,” Orton said. “We are all really competitive. We love playing hard-nosed defense. We know every team is trying really hard to beat us.”

Piute and St. Joseph are just two of many quality teams that would love to end the Bobcats’ two-year win streak and are nothing to scoff at. The Jayhawks have claimed two of the last three 1A state titles (2012-13) and enter as the No. 1 seed from Region 18. The tourney's other top seeds are Region 19 winner Monticello (12-3) and Region 17 winner Duchesne.

Fourth-ranked Duchesne enters the tournament after winning 17 of its last 18 games — including five straight — and has three players who average at least 10 points per game, led by Mashaylee Giles’ 12 points per game and Alyssa Nielsen’s 11.8 points per game.

Meanwhile, the second-ranked Thunderbirds are led by sharpshooter and 1A leading scorer Shaylee Gleave (21.4 ppg), who is the anchor of 1A’s second-highest scoring offense, and Macey Dalton (9.4 ppg). They will need huge performances from both of their stars and role players to be in contention on the final day.

Panguitch matched up extremely well with both teams earlier in the season, especially against Piute, as it accounted for half (three) of the Thunderbirds’ six losses this season.

Meanwhile, despite only dropping one game all season, currently riding a 14-game winning streak, having the second-ranked scoring defense in 1A, and claiming two of the last three state titles, Cravens knows it's going to take a lot more pieces than star forward Kathleen Tomon (16.6 ppg, 10.7 RPG) and Mady White (14.9 ppg, 4.9 APG) to dethrone such a dominant team as Panguitch.

“We’ve got to be able to come out and flat-out shoot the ball really well,” said Cravens. “We have got to move and create our own offense. I just think our shooting and scoring in general is going to be our X-factor this tournament.”

With such a deep, balanced and championship-experienced team, Panguitch is definitely considered to be the clear-cut favorite as it has completely dominated its competition this season by having an outstanding average winning margin of 43 points per game. It hasn't won by less than 21 points in any contest this season.

“Our goal is to hold our opponents to 30 points per game every game,” Frandsen said. “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 2015 1A girls basketball state championship is set to get underway Wednesday morning as the first round kicks off at 10 am at the Sevier Valley Center.

CONTRIBUTING: Kirk Grant

Ryan Love is a full-time student at the University of Utah studying communications, and has been a part-time sportswriter and scoreboarder for the Deseret News since Oct. 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724

EMAIL: rlove@deseretnews.com