Richfield • Only 28 miles separate Garfield County rivals Panguitch and Bryce Valley.
But the divide between the two schools’ girls basketball teams might be as deep as Bryce Canyon.
Panguitch rolled to its eighth state girls championship since 1999 by beating Bryce Valley 51-29 Saturday in the Class 1A finals at the Sevier Valley Center to complete an impressive undefeated 25-0 season.
Though the Bobcats don’t have a senior on their roster, coach Curtis Barney said the girls have been playing so long together that it seems as though they are veterans.
"They are young but I feel like we are experienced because we’ve played them together for so long," said Barney, who won his eighth state title as Panguitch coach. "We started hauling them down to St. George when they were fifth-graders … Even though they are young, you can tell they have played a lot of basketball together."
If Panguitch’s victory wasn’t totally unexpected, Bryce Valley turned into the surprise of the tournament. The Mustangs came in as the sixth seed from Region 20, where they won just three games during league play. They had lost to Panguitch 58-27 and 64-24 earlier in the season but redeemed an otherwise mediocre season with upset victories over Piute and two-time defending champion St. Joseph.
"That’s the closest game we have played them of the three this year," said Bryce Valley coach Tyson Brinkerhoff, whose team played eight games in 11 days. "If we played four more times on them, maybe we could break even."
The Mustangs came out aggressively but never led in the game.
Panguitch’s tall inside players led by junior Darri Frandsen were just too tall.
"We decided to take advantage of our big center and run the pick and roll to get ourselves going," said Barney. "We had a little too much height. They would come down in the paint and we altered their shops. It helps to have quickness, height and a lot of youthful activity going on all the time."
Frandsen, who led all scorers with 17 points, said she thought Panguitch’s height made a difference. But she said this was the toughest game of the three the Bobcats played against Bryce Valley.
"It was definitely harder," she said. "They have improved so much since when we first played them."
After giving up 15 straight points to Panguitch late in the first quarter and to start the second, Bryce Valley rallied to cut the lead to 25-15 at the half and came as close as nine early in the second half. But another 14-0 Panguitch run in the third quarter was just too much for the Mustangs to overcome as they sought to win their first title.
Bryce Valley’s only chance was to bomb from long range. Leading scorer Ashley Chynoweth scored nine of her 11 points on 3-pointers.
Sophomore guard Whitni Orton had a big night for Panguitch, finishing with 12 points.
Panguitch won five straight titles from 1999 to 2003. With this group, it’s possible another run of championships is coming.
In Saturday’s consolation-bracket games, Rich took third by beating St. Joseph 50-37 behind Cami Lamborn’s 17 points. Hannah Ellett’s 19 points led Wayne past Whitehorse 83-55 for fifth place, and Kennedy Netto hit 15 to pace Milford to a 48-35 win over Monticello for sixth place.
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