RICHFIELD — Milford's 39-30 win over Monument Valley couldn’t have been a more different ball game than the Rich vs. Panguitch contest in the other 1A girls basketball semifinal Friday.
The methodical discipline was replaced by a fast-paced, high-turnover, gritty thriller.
“It was stressful, I’m not going to lie,” said head coach Mallory Bailey after leading Milford to its first opportunity to play for a 1A title. “But I’ve played basketball. So you learn to keep your cool in a tight situation.”
She said some the issue was the Cougars’ height and speed, and some of it was her team’s youth and the pressure of making history.
“It’s so difficult because this team is very young,” Bailey said. “I have one senior, I have a second-year junior, everybody else, sophomores and freshman. They’ve never experienced this before. It’s the first time Milford has ever been in the semifinals. And first time now we’ll be in the championship.”
Milford's reward for reaching the championship game is a matchup against perennial power Panguitch, a 44-29 winner over Rich.
The Tigers were led by senior point guard Elena Yee, who offered poised play down the stretch that turned the momentum in Milford’s favor for good. She finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, while Jaycee Rose added seven points and eight rebounds.
While the Tigers dominated the first quarter, 8-2, the Cougars came back to make it a competitive contest with a 9-2 second quarter.
The Tigers came out after halftime and managed to build up a 25-18 lead heading into the final quarter. That’s when the Cougars deceptive speed, length and tenacity allowed them to tie the game.
“It was all mentality timeouts,” Bailey said of the breaks she took down the stretch. “They have the talent, they have the ball-handling skills. It was all, ‘just keep your head in the game and stay calm.’
Intentional fouls in the final minute and a half made it seem like the margin of victory was much bigger than it felt. Bailey said she’s not sure there is a way to encapsulate what this milestone means to the program, the school and the community.
“I probably can’t even find the words, what it means,” she said. “It opens the door for other teams because It’s always been impossible for Milford. And now it’s possible.”