1A basketball championships: Piute girls, Panguitch boys win state titles

Piute girls and Panguitch boys celebrate after winning respective 1A championship games, Richfield, Utah, March 6, 2021 | Photos by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

RICHFIELD — The Piute High School girls and Panguitch boys won their respective 1A state basketball championship games in Richfield Saturday. Here’s a recap of the action of both title games, which were staged at the Sevier Valley Center:

Piute 44, Valley 40

The Piute Thunderbirds withstood a late rally by the Valley Buffaloes to win the girls 1A state basketball championship, 44-40.

Top-seeded Valley had gotten off to a strong start, taking a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes. Piute finally broke the ice with an inside shot late in the first quarter, which ended up starting a 16-0 run for the Thunderbirds that lasted well into the second quarter.

Piute coach Tim Westwood chalked up his team’s slow start to championship-game jitters. “I thought if we could just get one ball to go through the hoop, we’d be all right. And we did,” Westwood said.

Piute vs. Valley, 1A girls basketball championship, Richfield, Utah, March 6, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Thunderbirds went on to lead 19-11 at halftime, as they held Valley to zero field goals and four free throws during the second quarter.

Piute extended its lead to 31-19 as the third quarter ended, but Valley rallied to score 21 points in the fourth quarter to narrow the deficit.

“I kept telling the girls, ‘They’re going to come back. You’ve got to stay on your toes,” Westwood said. “Valley’s got great leadership, great coaching and girls that can score swift and fast.”

Ultimately, the No. 2 seeded Thunderbirds were able to hold on to their lead and fend off their Region 20 rivals down the stretch.

By the time Valley scored the last basket of the game to cut Piute’s lead to four points, 44-40, the clock had run out on the Buffaloes.

Piute vs. Valley, 1A girls basketball championship, Richfield, Utah, March 6, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Valley (17-5) had beaten Piute (19-5) both times the teams had met during the regular season, but the third time proved to be the charm for the Thunderbirds.

Kassidy Westwood led Piute in scoring with 14 points, with Tera Morgan adding 13 and Ashley Talbot scoring 12.

Valley also had three players score in double figures, led by Paige Harris with 11, followed by Whitnee Spencer and Jannie Hoyt with 10 apiece.

The win marked the second girls basketball state championship in Piute school history, with the other coming in 2010.

Piute made it to Saturday’s title game by defeating No. 7 seeded Tabiona 46-35 on Thursday, then edging past third-seeded Wayne 53-51 in Friday’s semifinals.

Panguitch 56, Wendover 42

The Panguitch Bobcats built an early double-digit lead against Wendover and held on to win the boys 1A state championship, 56-42.

Panguitch vs. Wendover, 1A boys basketball championship, Richfield, Utah, March 6, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Both teams had started slowly, missing their first few shots. Midway through the first quarter, the Bobcats were up 4-0 but then hit a couple more baskets to extend their lead to 9-0. Following a timeout, Wendover got on the scoreboard with an inside shot, but the Bobcats went on to lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter played out in similar fashion, with Panguitch taking a 28-15 halftime lead.

Wendover rallied in the third quarter, cutting Panguitch’s lead to seven with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that made it 39-32 Bobcats heading into the final quarter.

The Wildcats managed to get as close as four points midway through the fourth quarter, but Panguitch then went on a 10-run to put the game back out of reach. The Bobcats made multiple defensive rebounds and hit several free throws down the stretch to secure the win.

Saturday’s victory marked the eighth boys basketball title for Panguitch and the third in the past five years. The Bobcats won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 before losing back-to-back championship games in 2019 and 2020.

“After winning two in a row, we lost two in a row. The last thing we wanted to do was repeat the last two years,” Panguitch head coach Clint Barney said. “I’ve found out that it’s hard enough to get to a state championship game but it’s even harder to win it.”

Panguitch vs. Wendover, 1A boys basketball championship, Richfield, Utah, March 6, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We played defense exceptionally well the first half,” Barney added. “We kind of let them get some momentum going in the second half, which made it a little bit more difficult. You’re not going to keep a team like that down.”

Paxton Wolfley led Panguitch’s balanced scoring attack with 15 points, while Ryker Hatch added 14, Tucker Chappell made 10 and Klyn Fullmer scored nine. Junior center Kyler Bennett contributed eight points and collected several rebounds.

Panguitch converted 14-of-20 free throws during the contest, hitting just enough late in the contest to keep Wendover from getting back into the game.

“We only lost five games all year and four of them could’ve been blamed on free throws,” Barney said. “That’s not a fun way to lose ballgames, so we made that an emphasis in practice.”

The Bobcats, who finished with a season record of 21-5, had entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed. In Thursday’s quarterfinals, Panguitch defeated No. 5 Piute, 58-46, setting up a semifinal matchup with No. 8 seed Valley, which had knocked off top-seeded Bryce Valley 47-45 the previous day. Panguitch then beat Valley on Friday, 47-38, sending them into the championship game against Wendover, the tournament’s No. 2 seed.

Barney said that four of his team’s starters were on last year’s team that lost to Bryce Valley in overtime in the title game on Feb. 29, 2020, and four Bobcat starters are expected to be back again next year.

2A championships

Although Southern Utah’s smaller high schools ended up winning both 1A basketball titles, the area’s 2A schools were not as fortunate.

In the boys 2A tournament held Feb. 22-24 in Richfield, No. 4 seeded Enterprise upset top-seeded Beaver in the semifinals, only to lose the title game to Layton Christian Academy, 60-53.

Layton Christian had edged past No. 3 seed Parowan 50-46 in the other semifinal matchup.

Meanwhile, in the 2A girls tournament, also held Feb. 22-24 in Richfield, No. 4 seeded Kanab advanced to the finals, only to lose to second-seeded North Summit in the title game, 65-48.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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