Seeing Region 20 rivals meeting each other in the boys basketball state playoffs is to be expected, but that doesn’t mean the games don’t hold any surprises.
Panguitch and Piute, the No. 1 and 2 seeded teams in the tournament, are set to face off in the championship Saturday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
However, at times the road getting there hasn’t been as predictable as it might seem.
Panguitch was able to beat Bryce Valley 37-24 Friday night, but by the half the game was tied up at 13-all, with only one field goal being scored in all of the second period.
The night before when Panguitch edged out Valley, it was in an 18-14 game where the Buffaloes stalled the game for several minutes dribbling in the back corner.
“The bottom line is when you play inter-region teams, this is what you get,” said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. “You are so familiar with each other, there is absolutely no set play, no personnel that we throw at them, or defensive schemes they haven’t seen. It’s just a battle of wills out there.”
Against Bryce Valley, things started to pick up in the third quarter when Paxton Wolfley went on a nine-point jaunt for Panguitch.
“Our offense was slow and struggling all night,” Wolfley said. “I had some mid range shots that went in. It was nice to see for once.”
Panguitch’s defense remained stingy, resulting in the Bobcats claiming a 24-18 edge as the final eight minutes began.
“It felt like we gained some confidence and were able to build the lead,” Barney said. “Anytime you come to these state tournaments, defense is going to win out.”
Panguitch was able earn a return trip to the championship round where the Bobcats will close out the win so it can defend its title.
“I’m just proud of our kids,” Barney said.
Piute played Friday’s late game, pulling out a 44-25 win over Manila.
“That was a much closer game than the score indicated,” said coach Eric Jessen. “They work as hard as any team we’ve played.”
Manila kept things close, and was trailing by just four as the forest period ended. In the second stanza, a total of six points were scored, with Manila cutting the lead down by two.
In the second half Piute took on a more dominant role as Gavin Morgan and Brooks Dalton both racked up buckets on their way to a game-leading 11 points each.
Piute’s defense continued to hold back Manila in the final stanza, allowing just seven points.
“Getting to this point in the season took hard work and good kids,” Jessen said. “They work day in and day out with consistency and focus. It’s all about learning.”
When it comes down to facing region rival Panguitch for a third time in the season finale, Jessen said his boys are ready.
“I’m excited for it,” Jessen said. “You want to play the best teams in order to say you’re the best.”