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High school girls basketball: Panguitch's dominant second half lifts Bobcats to second straight 1A championship

RICHFIELD — Over the last two years, there hasn’t been a more cohesive or dominant girls’ basketball team than Panguitch.

The Bobcats have won two Region 20 titles, posted back-to-back undefeated seasons, won 54 consecutive games and have now topped it all off with a second straight 1A state championship Saturday night at the Sevier Valley Center.

“These kids have worked so hard this summer. When we won it last year, we made a commitment to get even better, and I think they showed that tonight,” Panguitch head coach Curtis Barney said. “That’s attributed to them to not just settle for last year and continuing to build themselves over the summer to make themselves even better.”

But the two-time defending champs have never been tested as hard as they were in their championship matchup against No. 2 Piute as they went head-to-head with the Thunderbirds before taking complete control in the second half to secure a 58-28 state championship victory.

“They (Piute) are a prolific scoring team, and they have that ability to play great defense,” Barney said. “You’ve got to put them up there with as good as any team in the state that there is right now.”

The Thunderbirds came out swinging as 1A’s leading scorer Shaylee Gleave scored her team’s first nine points to make it an 11-9 game.

Panguitch finally began to find a rhythm and responded with a 12-1 run to take a commanding lead before Piute came storming back with a 6-0 burst of its own to make it a 26-16 contest at the break and remain within striking distance.

“We just knew that we really needed to step up our defense and make sure they couldn’t score on us,” Panguitch senior center and tournament MVP Darri Frandsen said. “Then we knew we just had to come out in the second half and play offense like we know we can.”

And with the No. 1 scoring defense in all of 1A (30.5 ppg), Panguitch had no problem getting after it on the defensive end to wear down the Thunderbirds and get things rolling.

The Bobcats came out in the second half and used their tremendous length and stamina on the defensive end to force the visitors into several turnovers and score the final six points of the third quarter.

The home team kept its dominant run going into the first five minutes of the fourth quarter as it scored 13 unanswered points and held Piute to under 30 points for the game — including just 12 second-half points — to cap off with a 19-0 run and seal the 1A state championship victory.

“Our goal all year has been to keep our opponents under 30 points,” Barney said of his defense. “We would come into a huddle during a timeout and talk about how many points we had given up. And in that second half, they were determined to hold them (under 30 points), and they did a great job on the defensive end.”

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