Richfield • When it comes to playing all-out hustling basketball, Bryce Valley’s Mustangs don’t horse around.
The little school at the base of Bryce Canyon National Park used that aggressive style to capture an impressive 71-60 victory over Rich and a berth in Saturday night’s Class 1A boys’ championship game at the Sevier Valley Center.
Bryce Valley coach Eric Jessen said the idea is to play aggressive but stay out of foul trouble. And the Mustangs managed to do that — just barely — against taller Rich.
Led by Braxton Syrett’s 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists, Bryce Valley used an 11-point run late in the first half to gain the lead. And though Rich rallied to within 57-54 with 3 minutes, 21 seconds to play, the Mustangs never gave up the lead.
Perhaps the key shot was a Syrett 3-pointer with 1:52 to play, a basket that brought Jessen to his knees as it went up. The answered prayer gave the Mustangs a 61-54 lead that was just too much for the Rebels to overcome.
“We knew this would be tough,” said Syrett, whose family founded Ruby’s Inn near the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. “We had to go out and play big. People thought Rich would box us out and score off of rebounds.”
Another big factor in the Bryce Valley victory was freshman Kix Roundy, whose eight points in the second half helped keep the Mustangs ahead. He finished with 11 points to join teammates Syrett, Hunter Meacham and Josiah Brannon in double figures.
Rich got big games from Skyler Argyle, who had 18, and John Acree with 16. The Rebels stayed close but lost to the more aggressive team in the end.
The tiny Garfield County towns of Tropic, Henrieville and Cannonville that feed Bryce Valley likely will be almost empty Saturday night. This is a place that takes its basketball seriously.