RICHFIELD — The way Bryce Valley raced up and down the court in the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal game against Wendover, it seemed they were trying to come back from a double-digit deficit.
Instead, the third-ranked Mustangs owned a double-digit lead.
Two things made it a difficult temptation to resist — the players prefer to play that way, and unranked Wendover made them do it.
“We’re really guard-oriented,” said head coach Gary Syrett, after Bryce Valley withstood an impressive fourth-quarter effort by the Wildcats to earn a 63-56 win the 1A State Tournament at the Sevier Valley Center. “They like to play up and down, and we play well at pace. … But both teams that we’ve played here have done a real good job of turning the pace up and making you get out of your comfort zone. And we bought into it a little bit.”
Bryce Valley led most of the game, and it looked like they might cruise to a win in the first quarter. But the Wildcats picked up their intensity, doing a much better job of disrupting the Mustang offense in the second half, especially that final quarter, in which they outscored the Mustangs 23-17.
“Part of it is with Wendover,” Syrett said of why his team played at a frenetic pace in the fourth quarter. “They put so much pressure on, and they do such a good job, that it almost makes you speed up. They’re a really well-coached team, and they get after it. They’re fast, fundamentally sound. I felt like we could slow them down, but I was a little nervous about exactly what happened. They did a good job of speeding us up.”
Senior Austyn Brinkerhoff said it was difficult to resist the urge to play run-and-gun basketball because it suits them.
“Sometimes in a game, we pull it out a bit and slow down, but that’s just not how we like to play,” said Brinkerhoff, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. “Our team likes to play loose, running up and down the floor. We like it quick, so if we make a mistake, it’s not like, ‘Oh, we have to wait three more minutes to get the ball back.’ Just bang, bang, bang; it’s just the type of players we are.” Easton Syrett had an impressive game with 14 points, five assists and seven rebounds. Taten Leech added 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists.
Brinkerhoff had high praise for the way the team’s freshmen — Sergio Vasquez and Treyson Roberts, have performed in the first two games of the tournament. Roberts finished with an impressive eight points and seven rebounds.
“They came in and were really strong off the bench for us,” Brinkerhoff said. “They definitely stepped up and showed us what they’re up to this tournament.”
Coach Syrett was pleased with the way his team played defense, especially in the first half.
“I thought we contested shots, and I liked our ball movement, too,” he said. “Against their zone, we knew we could get it on the backside, and they did a great job of passing the ball and finishing.”
In other 1A quarterfinal games, Panguitch defeated Tintic 51-30. The Bobcats were led by Acey Orton, who scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Kanyon Lamb added 13 points, and Jace Eyre scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Curtis Evans led the Miners with seven points, while eight different players contributed on offense.
Unranked Piute edge No. 3 Valley 39-38 in one of the most exciting games of the day. Beau Sylvester led Piute with 15 points, while Gates Fullmer added eight points and Shandon Bagley finished with six points.
In the final game of the day, Manila avoided an upset by beating Monticello 58-44.
Manila was led by Burke Pallesen and Jordan Lucio, who scored 16 points each. Pallesen added 11 rebounds. Monticello was led by Jack Freestone, who scored 12 points, Ryan Bird, who added 11 points, and Adam Bunker, who chipped in 10 points.
In 1A consolation games, Rich defeated Wayne 66-48, Pinnacle beat Water Canyon 34-31 and Tabiona defeated Monument Valley 50-33.