Fans of 1A boys basketball may feel a sense of déjà vu as last year’s top contenders, region rivals Panguitch and Piute, are set to face off again. 

“It’s like playing with your brother in the backyard,” said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. “You know every move each other is going to make.”

After a rough-and-tumble first half, Panguitch’s boys were able to punch their ticket to the championship game with a 46-36 win over Tabiona Friday night.

“They really pushed us out and made us more perimeter than we’re used to,” Barney said. “Last night’s game in the quarterfinal, we came out and made our first two 3-pointers, so we were feeling pretty good about it, but tonight we struggled and they kept pushing us out.”

Tabiona took the lead early, and maintained a 13-10 advantage at the end of the first stanza. 

However, Panguitch employed a balanced scoring attack to take its first lead of the game with 5:15 left in the first half as Cache Eyre dropped in his first of two 3-pointers.

Eyre finished the game with 12 points, as did Tucker Chappell who earned a double-double with 11 rebounds. Spencer Talbot added 10 points to Panguitch’s effort.

“We’ve been that balanced all year long, we have five guys getting 10 points a game,” Barney said. “It’s a different character every time, kind of like the game Clue.”

Panguitch was able to gain some momentum in the second half, holding Tabiona to just two field goals in the third period while scoring 13 points. 

“During the second half we were able to establish the low post and got some easy baskets and offensive rebounds,” Barney said. “More importantly, we made some defensive stops on the other end, got some rebounds and didn’t give them second chances. It was a good second half.”

The key for Panguitch making it this far is the boys’ resiliency, Barney said. 

“We haven’t had a lot of tight games lately, so it was nice to see that we didn’t get our heads down,” Barney said. “We were still able to establish what we do best.”

Piute was able to pull off the upset last year against Panguitch in the state championship. 

“I don’t know how much magic I have,” said Piute coach Eric Jessen. “They’re good. They’re strong, they’re balanced and they post well. We’ll have our hands full.”

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Piute used a perimeter attack to beat Wendover in a 55-39 encounter during Friday’s late game. The Thunderbirds hit eight 3-pointers, including three from Jaxon Westwood, who ended the night with 13 points.

Kole Westwood posted 15 points for the Thunderbirds as the game’s top scoring player, but it was his tenacious defense against Wendover’s Orlando Alvarez that likely unlocked the victory for Piute, Jessen said. Westwood also pulled down 16 rebounds.

“I was pleased with our defensive effort tonight,” Jessen said. He said Titan King, who has been dealing with a sore arm, also came in and played phenomenal defense.

“I love my senior leadership in Brooks Dalton,” Jessen said. Dalton was last year’s MVP, and the only returning starter from last year’s state champion team. He totaled 12 points against Wendover.

“I have new kids who haven’t been here before, so it’s good to have him,” Jessen said. 

The championship game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

“We’ve got to play better defense,” Jessen said. “We’re back where we want to be, and that’s all we want is a chance.”