The Piute High School girls basketball team secured its second consecutive state title after defeating Tabiona 38-30 at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield Saturday night.
The win marks not only a repeat title, but a new record for most wins in a season in school history, according to coach Tim Westwood.
“We set a new record for the most wins for a girls program at Piute with 25,” Westwood said. “The girls deserve it. They’ve worked so hard.”
Tabiona started things off by establishing an early lead over Piute.
“Tabiona is one heck of a team,” Westwood said. “They are very well coached with great players. I knew we had to take (Abbie) Rhoades out of the picture. She is just so, so good.”
Even with extra emphasis on Rhoades, she was still able to secure 11 points for Tabiona.
“It had to be a conservative effort by everyone on the team, and it really worked,” Westwood said.
The tide shifted with about three minutes left in the first stanza as Piute junior Tera Morgan hit two 3-pointers, followed by a field goal from teammate Hannah Wittwer, giving Piute a 12-4 edge.
“We played this team once before and it was a tight game,” Morgan said. “We just knew what we had to do, which was work hard and play defense. It all came from the defense.”
While Morgan said the emphasis was on defense, she led all players on offense with 24 points.
Tabiona clawed its way back by halftime and was able to knot the game at 16 — all thanks to Rhoades, but Piute kicked its defense into high gear in the third quarter, holding the Tigers to just one score from the field, a 3-pointer from Mersadie Rhoades.
Piute was able to build a six-point edge heading into the final period, and that’s when Morgan got in a rhythm and scored nine of her points.
“Everyone thought that we were a Kassidy Westwood-led team, but we proved tonight that we are more than that,” coach Westwood said.
He said Morgan’s game-leading effort of 24 points was key to the victory, as were the efforts of the rest of the group.
“It was a 100 percent team effort,” Kassidy Westwood said. “We knew 3s were the only way they’d get back in the game, so we tried our best to stop them.”
“We actually played them earlier in the season, and they beat us by one point in overtime,” said Piute senior Ashton Winckel. “We came in knowing that they were a good team, and we were mentally prepared for it.”
The win proved to be a historic night for Piute High School for a number of reasons.
“This is Piute’s back-to-back state championships and we’ve never done that before,” Winckel said. “It feels really good that I was on the two teams that were able to accomplish that.”
“It means so much to me,” said senior Hannah Wittwer. “It means everything to me to be able to end my senior year with a state championship. My team knows if coach Tim tells them to do something, they go right out and do it.”
Coach Westwood said he is happy to have coached the team to a title against a strong field of contenders.
“If you had an easy road, you wouldn’t get as mentally tough and compete,” he said. “We can be happy with it, but we need to be humble in our victories because the other teams work just as hard as we do. We just need to appreciate that we were here and that we could compete.”
Deseret News 1A girls all-tournament team
MVP — Tera Morgan, Piute
Kassidy Westwood, Piute
Abbie Rhoades, Tabiona
Hannah Wittwer, Piute
Gracee Fabrizio, Tabiona
Abbee Holman, Panguitch