Richfield • The Milford girls’ basketball team is small of stature and very young. The coach is 81/2 months pregnant. And the fans of the tiny school in eastern Beaver County rank among the loudest and most passionate you ever might see.
But the Tigers, who took a thrilling 39-30 win over Monument Valley in their first-ever appearance in the Class 1A girls’ state semifinals, were only part of the story Friday at the Sevier Valley Center.
Monument Valley, which led with 4:10 to play, also is a small school located in the farthest edge of southeastern Utah. And the school of mostly Navajo students came quite close to being the surprise team of the season.
This was a game of many stories.
For example, just how far along is Milford coach Mallory Bailey?
“I knew that was going to be the first question,” smiled the personable coach, who looked spent from the intense game. “I am three weeks away.”
The stress had to be horrible on the soon-to-be mother who watched Milford trail 28-27 with 4:10 to play.
That’s when sophomores Preslee Barnson and Jaycee Rose made big plays that allowed the team’s lone senior, Elena Yee, to take over in the final 30 seconds.
Barnson drove through the tough Cougars defense for two field goals that gave her team the lead for good. Then Rose, who is 5 foot 3 and weighs 80 pounds, hit a big basket and a free throw. That set up Yee to score nine of her 20 points in the final 29.1 seconds.
“It was stressful, but I had my team’s back,” said Yee, who was knocked to the floor at one point. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Bailey said she tried to keep her young team calm and focused as Monument Valley, which was led by Bertilena Atene and Errianne Cly, made run after run in an often physical battle.
“It was stressful,” said the coach. “I’m not going to lie. I played basketball, and you learn to keep your cool in a tight situation. It is so difficult.”
That’s especially true on a team with only one senior.
“This team is very young,” Bailey said. “We have a senior and a second-year junior. Everybody else has never experienced this before. This is the first time ever in the semifinals and now the first time in the finals. So it’s a big deal.”
That was evident by the size and passion of the Milford cheering section, a crowd that would have put many larger schools to shame.