The Wayne High School girls basketball team took home its first state championship since 2004 on Saturday night.
Wayne’s Lady Badgers outlasted Tabiona in a 29-26 thriller.
“Can I say wow,” said coach Kerry Stevens. “It’s a great feeling, I’m so proud of them.”
The win marks the first state championship for Stevens as a head coach.
“It’s been a long time for us,” Stevens said.
The defensive battle started as just three field goals were made in the first eight minutes, only one of which came from Wayne courtesy of Hadlee Taylor. The other buckets came from Tabiona’s Mersadie Rhodes with an inside jumper and teammate Milee Strebel’s first of two 3-pointers during the game. Tabiona had a 5-2 edge heading into the second period.
“I have to give it to Tabiona, they came out and had a game plan to put some pressure on us,” Stevens said. He said his Lady Badgers had to counter Tabiona’s plan with a full-team defensive effort of their own in order to have a chance at winning.
“Offensively, we struggled a little bit,” Stevens said. Both teams shot approximately 29% from the field. Tabiona hit 25% of its free throws, while Wayne hit 23%.
By halftime, Wayne’s girls had shifted the momentum of the game by establishing a 13-9 edge thanks to shots from Andee VanDyke, Aspen New and Taylor.
Much of the game came down to prodding each other’s defense to find opportunities.
“It was 100% the whole time,” Stevens said. “It was a tough battle for us with pretty even defense-to-defense.”
Tabiona was able to take the lead back early in the fourth period, thanks to an inside shot banked in by Laynie Bagley.
Wayne’s Hailey Durfey answered with a 3-pointer to get the lead back. VanDyke and Emma Hallows each dropped buckets in the final two minutes. Taylor added two more from the foul line, giving Wayne an eight-point lead with less than a minute to go, but Tabiona wasn’t finished. A 3-pointer from Milee Strebel pulled Tabiona to within three points with 24 seconds to go, but Wayne withstood the rally attempt.
“Our defense just had to talk and communicate,” VanDyke said. “I’m so grateful for each and every one of my teammates and I’m happy with how it turned out.”
VanDyke was the game’s top scoring player, with 12 points.
“We just had to play tough defense and run our offense all the way through,” said Wayne’s Kate Torgerson, who ended the night with six rebounds and two points. “We just played as hard as we could. We just had to approach it as another game and not over think it.”
Sharing the championship with the team is a payoff for a lot of work, according to New,
““We’ve all worked really hard and it’s been a long time,” New said. “None of us had ever done anything like this, so it was so special.”
Wayne finishes the year with an 18-5 record.
“We had to work together as a team to get to where we got to,” Hailey Durfey said. “We’re a big family and we support each other no matter what. That’s what helped us win,”
The Lady Badgers have six seniors graduating this year including Emma Hallows, Taylor, Durfey, New, Torgerson and VanDyke.
“These are probably some of the best kids around,” Stevens said. “They work hard and do everything they need to do to get right here. They show up early, they stay late, that’s what it’s all about.”
The finale was played Saturday night at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
MVP — Andee VanDyke, Wayne
Sicily Fabrizio, Tabiona
Aspen New, Wayne
Hailey Durfee, Wayne
Rachel Cox, Valley
Mersadie Rhoades, Tabiona