RICHFIELD — There are no easy games when it comes to a state championship, especially when it’s the fourth matchup between two teams in a season.
The Panguitch High School girls’ basketball team was able to outlast Region 20 rival Piute in a 38-35 defensive battle Saturday night in Richfield.
“I think we knew each other’s right and left footsteps,” said Panguitch girls coach Curtis Barney, who after 27 years at the helm of the Bobcats earned his 12th state title. “We each knew each other’s weaknesses and strengths, so it came down to execution.”
Region 20 hosts a region tournament, which gave Panguitch and Piute their two regular league games against each other as well as a bonus match in the tourney.
However, early in the second period, Piute’s Alysen Talbot nailed a 3-pointer to knot the game. Thunderbird Jordyn Kennedy hit the next shot, giving Piute its first lead of the game with 3:55 to go in the half.
Panguitch’s Karlee Eyre hit a trey to regain the Bobcat advantage as the half expired.
Through the third quarter, Panguitch took control of the court, holding Piute to just two shots from the field. Meanwhile, the Bobcats went on a 13-point jaunt to secure a 25-16 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
“Luckily we had a few more instances where we made the execution count more,” Barney said. “The girls did a good job of getting some inside baskets.”
Panguitch is a team that likes to shoot the ball from outside, but Piute was prepared for it.
“They took that away from us,” Barney said. “Brittney Henrie has been our great 3-point shooter. Tonight she had to be a facilitator instead. She did a great job of being unselfish and getting it to those girls down low. … We knew if we were going to excel in any spot it would be under the basket.”
Piute crept up on Panguitch again in the final stanza, closing the gap to just three points with less than a minute to go after a pair of downtowners from Vanessa Delgado.
“We just had to stay with our game,” Barney said. “Finally, finally in the latter minutes were able to get enough of a lead on them so they had to foul us, and we made some foul shots.”
Henrie drained a pair of shots from the line with 25.8 seconds to go, pushing the lead back to five points.
“We’ve been working on foul shots really hard in practice,” Henrie said. “I just tried to step in there with confidence.”
Barney said his inside players did an excellent job.
“When you’re in a 33-30 game, every score is a premium,” Barney said. “We go over and over in practice that every foul shot, we are one down.”
The win gives Panguitch its 13th title.
“We just worked really hard all season and it paid off,” said Eyre, who totaled 11 points for Panguitch.
Deseret News 1A all-tournament team
- MVP — Brittney Henrie, Panguitch
- Kapri Orton, Panguitch
- Karlee Eyre, Panguitch
- Jordyn Kennedy, Piute
- Vanessa Delgato, Piute
- McKina Stacey, Rich