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High school girls basketball: Piute's dominant 2nd quarter lifts Thunderbirds into 1A title game

RICHFIELD — Competing in an extremely talented and dominant Region 20 means going up against the best-of-the-best night in and night out.

And No. 2 Piute is more than comfortable in doing just that.

In yet another big-time region battle against No. 3 Bryce Valley, the Thunderbirds’ poise was on full display Friday night as they overcame a slow start to blow past the Mustangs 56-38 to advance to the 1A girls’ state basketball championship.

“It’s prepared us a lot because we’ve played a lot of close games in Region 20. Really, on any given night in Region 20, you could get beat or you could win — either way you know you’re going to get pushed,” Piute head coach Wade Westwood said. “So we’re definitely prepared, more physical and it has made us tougher. It’s definitely been an advantage for us and has toughened us up for this tournament.”

It took Piute a few minutes to find a rhythm as it got off to a sloppy start and found itself facing an 11-9 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

The home team quickly regrouped and responded with a monstrous second quarter — where it outscored Bryce Valley 20-5 — led by its phenomenal backcourt in 1A’s leading scorer Shaylee Gleaves and sophomore guard Macey Dalton, to take a double-digit lead and all the momentum at the break.

“That (run) was definitely big for us. It just seems to take us awhile to settle down and run our offense,” said Westwood. “It just took us awhile to settle down and focus on what we needed to do to get going.”

The two teams swapped baskets throughout the third quarter with both squads tallying 14 points as Piute remained in complete control with a 13-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.

The home team continued its strong play in the fourth quarter as it extended its lead and showed tremendous poise down the stretch en route to the 18-point victory.

The Thunderbirds’ star-studded backcourt of Gleaves and Dalton really took control of the game and put their team on their backs in the win as the two guards combined for 29 points with three treys in the win.

Gleaves came out and shot the lights out as she scored the first five points of the game and netted a game-high 16 points — all of which came in the first half — to help power her team to the 1A championship.

“Shaylee Gleaves is such a trooper,” Westwood said of his star guard. “She just works extremely hard all game on both offense and defense. You just know what you’re going to get out of Shaylee every single night.”

With the win, second-seeded Piute advances to the 1A championship game where it will take on a familiar foe in 1A juggernaut and defending champion Panguitch, which has won 53 straight games, Saturday night at 5 p.m.

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 October 2012.

Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724