There’s just 32 minutes left in the 1A girls basketball season after Friday night’s semifinals at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield, which left Tabiona and Wayne in contention for this year’s title.

Tabiona’s Lady Tigers outlasted a tenacious effort by Valley, taking a 68-55 win to punch their ticket to the season finale. 

“I’m very proud of these girls,” said coach Jake Fabrizio. “We came in as a seventh seed in this tournament. We’ve worked really hard this year to get to where we are at.”

Tabiona struck early, building up a 9-0 edge in the first period. That’s when Valley made its initial run at the Lady Tigers, with Lydia Cox hitting a bucket. Ruth Cox and Jannie Hoyt both drilled 3-pointers to make it a one-point game.

Valley kept the pressure on through the second quarter, where it held Tabiona to four buckets from the field. By the half, Tabiona was up 28-23. 

“We knew coming in that is one thing Valley does very well is defend,” Fabrizio said. “We knew they’d put a lot of pressure on us.”

In the second half, Tabiona found rhythm as the Lady Tigers went on two seven-point jaunts to grow the lead to 40-26. From there the Lady Tigers were able to seal the win. 

Making it to the championship is a vindication of sorts as the Lady Tigers had to push through a rough patch early in the season, according to coach Fabrizio.

“I told the girls if they’d just stick with us and what we’re doing, we’d be alright,” Fabrizio said. 

“We played a lot of hard games early in the year, and it’s paying off now.”

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Milee Strebel drained four 3-pointers for the Lady Tigers, totaling 14 points. 

“Laynie Bagley probably had one of the games of her life tonight,” Fabrizio said. He said Bagley’s defensive efforts were key to the victory, as well as her game leading 15 points and eight rebounds.

Mersadie Rhodes pumped in 13 points for Tabiona, while Taylor Thomas checked on with 11. 

Next is the championship against Wayne.  

“When we played Wayne earlier this year, they beat us by one,” Fabrizio said. “I’m anticipating a really good game. We will have our hands full tomorrow.”

Wayne’s Lady Badgers defeated the top seeded Rich Lady Rebels, marking an emotional milestone — their first appearance in the championship game since 2003. 

Wayne was able to bump Rich into the consolation bracket in a 31-41 defensive faceoff. 

“These girls have been working hard and working especially hard on defense,” said Wayne’s coach Kerry Stevens. “To be able to hold them into the 30s was a pretty good defensive battle for us. That’s what we’ve been preaching this whole season. To see it come all the way around is a pretty good thing.”

Wayne started out aggressively, establishing an early lead thanks in part to back-to-back 3-pointers from Andee VanDyke. VanDyke would go on to lead all scorers in the game with 14 points. She also pulled down seven rebounds and stole the ball five times.

Wayne maintained a six-point lead through the first three quarters. It wasn’t until Rich’s Violett Taylor converted a 3-point play at the foul line that Rich was able to close within five points. However, the next eight points went to Wayne. With 2:32 left to play, Rich was unable to catch up.

Wayne’s appearance in this year’s championship game marks the first time for coach Stevens.

“We played a really close game in Tabiona, we wound up beating them, but it was really close,” Stevens said.  

With one game left, there’s still plenty to do, according to Stevens. 

“It’s a long, hard four days, so they’ve got to get rested, get some good food in them and plenty of fluids,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to go 100 percent for another 32 minutes.”

The championship is set to start at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.