Richfield • A long 415 miles separate Bryce Valley’s Mustangs from Manila’s Mustangs, with hardly a freeway along the way.
But there wasn’t much separation between the two teams for a lot of a well-played Class 1A boys’ basketball state semifinal Friday night.
In the end, only 10 points and quite a bit of experience separated the schools as the Bryce Valley version of the Mustangs advanced to Saturday’s all-Region 20 title game with a 53-43 victory.
Manila, which hasn’t been much of a factor in recent years, jumped out to an early lead against Bryce Valley, which has been in the title mix more than once in the past few years.
In the end, the pressure was just too much for the school with Flaming Gorge Reservoir in its front yard.
“I didn’t like the way we started,” Bryce Valley coach Gary Syrett said. “I was surprised. I thought the pressure felt more on us. We’ve been there. A couple of these players have now been in three semifinals. We were a little rattled.”
Bryce Valley’s Tate Leech, who played a fine game with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, echoed those sentiments.
“They came out strong,” Leech said. “We didn’t come out with the right mindset. It’s a long game, and as soon as we started coming back, we reeled them in pretty quick.”
Bryce Valley erased that early deficit to take a 23-20 halftime lead and built it to 37-27.
But Manila, which was led by Jordan Lucio with 20 points and nine rebounds, didn’t fold. The northeastern Utah Mustangs fought back to within four points in the final three minutes, but Bryce Valley finally was able to close it out.
“We felt like the key to our success was attacking,” said Syrett, who also got good games from Easton Syrett with 14 and Sergio Vasquez with 10. “It was their size versus our quickness. We just kept attacking. We knew we could push and get some transition layups.”