Richfield • “It feels perfect.”
Those were the words St. Joseph star Katie Panushka used to describe her emotions after the Jayhawks staved off aggressive Piute for a 39-29 victory in the Class 1A girls’ title game to complete a rare undefeated season Saturday.
Panuska and sophomore guard Mady White survived a double-overtime semifinal win Friday night against Rich then the all-out pressure game of Piute to win their second straight title.
As Piute pressed constantly to set an exhausting pace, the words veteran Jayhawks coach Joe Cravens told Panushka in the final moments of last year’s title game against Rich — “You have the rest of your life to be tired” — must have rang true again.
The Ogden Catholic school’s supporters wore that slogan on the back of green and gold T-shirts throughout the Sevier Valley Center all week. The words never seemed more appropriate as the Jayhawks survived their fourth tight game in as many days.
“They can put the type of pressure on that you saw and you can’t guard them when they are shooting layups at the other end,” said Cravens, the former Utah and Weber State men’s college coach who seems to be enjoying being a 1A girls coach. “We’ve had trouble with that all year. We finally spread the floor and tried to take care of it. The last couple of weeks, we made big plays when we had to.”
That certainly was the case Saturday in a tense fourth quarter.
St. Joseph took a 32-25 lead into that final quarter, but it watched Piute quickly cut that to 32-29 with 4 minutes, 7 seconds to play. The Thunderbirds would not score another point as Panushka, one of only two Jayhawk seniors, and White managed to hit key free throws.
“I was really nervous,” admitted White, a 5-foot-4 sophomore who had 11 points. “There was really tight pressure. ... It was physical. The first half was not that bad, but at the end of the fourth quarter, it got a lot more tough. We had to take care of the ball.”
The referees let both teams play a hard, physical game.
In the end, Panushka’s cool demeanor and 18 points proved too much for Piute to overcome.
“Both were amazing experiences,” Panushka said about winning back-to-back titles. “I don’t have words to describe them. I am so happy my last game with St. Joseph ended this way.”
Cravens said there was little talk about going undefeated.
“Being undefeated, crept into my mind as of late,” he said. “I don’t think anyone felt the pressure being here last year. But it’s like what they say back home: Even a blind hog finds an acorn sometimes.”
Piute, which got 10 points from Kierra Gleave and Whitney Westwood, is also a team dominated by underclassmen. Don’t be surprised to see these two teams back here next season.
Rich 60, Layton Christian 33 • The Rebels raced out to an 8-0 lead, built it up to more than 30 and never were threatened seriously as they finished a fine season by taking third place in the 1A girls’ tournament. Alisa Peterson led the balanced Rich (21-2) attack with 15 points, while Emmalee Peart and Cami Lamborn both scored 13 and Alyssa Brown had 10. Teneshia Davison had 17 for Layton Christian (13-9).
Panguitch 55, Duchesne 26 • Darri Frandsen poured in 25 points to lead the Bobcats to a sixth-place finish in the tournament. Panguitch finished the season at 18-8 overall in a game that was not close. Mashaylee led Duchesne (13-12) with 11 points.
Milford 39, Manila 31 • The Tigers held off a late rally to capture fifth place. Kennedy Netto led a balanced Milford effort with 12, and Tia Florence added 10 for the Tigers (19-8). Manila (20-5) was led by Janell Reed with eight points.
Storylines St. Joseph 39,Piute 29
R The Jayhawks complete a perfect season, going 22-0 and repeating as the Class 1A state champion.
• Katie Panushka leads St. Joseph with 18 points.