Panguitch clinched its eighth state boys basketball title Saturday night in a 1A state championship game clash against Wendover.
Panguitch set itself up for victory early and resisted several rally attempts in the 56-42 win.
“I’m just really proud of the boys,” said coach Clint Barney. He said the game was a little piece of redemption as the Bobcats have been in the title game each of the last five years. However, the last time they took home the first-place trophy was in 2018.
“It’s an unlikely story,” Barney said. “We weren’t supposed to be there last year, and I don’t know if we were this year.”
Barney said he’d come home from practice and tell his wife the team just wasn’t clicking early in season. However, in the past week, things fell into place.
“I have a group of kids who have worked hard every day,” Barney said. “They’ve been selfless, with no egos, and they share the ball. We’ve had one thing in mind, and that was to win a state championship, and at times it didn’t look like it would happen.”
The theme throughout the year and especially during the tournament has been one of teamwork.
“They’re all stars, and they all contribute,” Barney said. “We’re pretty well-balanced all across the board. It was that way all year.”
Balanced scoring held true as Paxton Wolfley led Panguitch’s effort with 15 points, followed by Ryker Hatch with 14 and Tucker Chappell with 10. Klyn Fullmer, with nine points, and Kyler Bennett, with eight, rounded out Panguitch’s offense.
The game started with Panguitch going on a 12-point run, with Chappell and Wolfley both scoring their first six.
Wendover’s Pedro Alvarez started a perimeter attack, hitting a shot at the top of the key and another from outside the arc to break up the Panguitch run, which fueled a 14-7 gap at the end of the first period.
Alvarez would end the night as the top-scoring player on the court with 16 points.
“Defensively I thought we were really good the first half,” Barney said. “We kind of let them get started at the end of the first half and build some confidence. They carried that into the second half.”
Wendover’s boys kept chipping away at the lead through the second half and cut it down to four points with 4:08 left to play as Angel Badillo Hernan found the net.
“It was a struggle,” Barney said. “We knew they’d have a run.”
The next 10 points belonged to Panguitch, including nine from Hatch. The effort was enough to keep Wendover at bay and secure the win.
Solid shooting helped things out, as Panguitch shot 14 of 20 from the charity stripe, and 20 of 38 from the field.
“We’ve shot well in this tournament,” Barney said.
The win means breaking a habit of being runner-up for the Bobcats.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of second places,” said Panguitch junior Kyler Bennett. “Now we got our first and I hope we can come back.”
Bennett said he was expecting a lot of fight from Wendover.
“We knew they were fast,” Bennett said. “Their guards are really fast, and their big boys are strong. We knew we had to push it up the floor and push it underneath.”
Panguitch was able to outrebound Wendover, pulling down 32 total boards to Wendover’s 23 during the game.
“It took hard work and lots of rebounds,” Chappell said. “I felt we played really good.”
The game also ended a historic run for Wendover’s boys — marking the first time the school’s boys basketball program has made it to the championship.
Deseret News 1A All-Tournament Team
MVP: Paxton Wolfley, Panguitch
Ryker Hatch, Panguitch
Tucker Chappell, Panguitch
Kyler Bennett, Panguitch
Pedro Alvarez, Wendover
Gavin Hoyt, Valley