It’s what they call basketball for breakfast.
When Katie Panushka and Liz Tomon lead out the St. Joseph on to the hard court at 10 a.m., it’ll be the first steps to defending their 1A title run from last year. They’ll face the play-in winner of Legacy Prep and Wayne, but for coach Joe Cravens, the Jayhawks’ perfect 18-0 record has been more of a bull’s-eye than a motivator.
“Our record relative to us is deceiving. We haven’t been challenged with the exception of Layton Christian,” Cravens said. “I think we have a good team but I just don’t know if we have enough to win this whole shooting match.”
The race for the 1A state championship tips off Wednesday at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield. The gang of 16 will play a four-day tournament to determine the best from all corners of Utah, with St. Joseph the presumptive favorite. Its undefeated season has come off the shooting prowess of Panushka and Tomon, who provide an inside/outside punch. With combined scoring of 457 points on the season, they are a powerful tandem that can create havoc for opposing teams.
“My soapbox speech to the team is simple — there is no slipping into town,” Cravens said. “Everyone is aware of us and will try to be competitive against us.”
With five teams undefeated in region play entering the tournament — Monument Valley, Rich, St. Joseph, Wendover and Monument Valley — Escalante (2-10) has embraced its long-shot status. Playing in the only league with a postseason showdown, host Escalante went on a tear during the Region 20 tournament to earn a spot in the state bracket. The Moquis were able to down Bryce Valley and Piute, securing a spot in the UHSAA championship.
“It’s been 10 years since a state tournament,” coach Ryan Cottam said. “We’ve been is some games with some of the top seeds and the girls are definitely grateful for the chance to play.”
Cottam said that his players are excited to continue their season. They know their first match against Monument Valley will be difficult but at this stage of the game, you can’t overlook anyone.
“Monument Valley is where they’re at for what they’ve done,” Cottam explained. “You can’t look past anyone — even us.”
1A girls’ basketball tournament
At the Sevier Valley Center, Richfield
10 a.m. • St. Joseph vs. Wayne
11:30 a.m. • Green River vs. Milford
1 p.m. • Wendover vs. Monticello
2:30 p.m. • Rich vs. Panguitch
4 p.m. • Monument Valley vs. Escalante
5:30 p.m. • Layton Christian vs. Duchesne
7 p.m. • Tintic vs. Manila
8:30 p.m. • Piute vs. Intermountain Christian
Quarterfinals • 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m.
Semifinals • 6 p.m.,7:30 p.m.
Championship • 5 p.m.