HOLLADAY — Playing a game two days before the 1A State Basketball Tournament was not the preparation coach Wade Westwood had in mind for the defending 1A state champs.
But after losing to Bryce Valley in the semi-finals of the Region 20 Tournament, the T-birds spent Monday traveling hundreds of miles from Piute to Holladay to take on Intermountain Christian School in a game that determined which team made Wednesday's tournament at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
"We haven't had a play-in game for several years," said Westwood after the T-birds defeated the Lions 67-53. "It's tough because we played the three region tournament games, then we traveled here to play, and then we go home for one day of practice before four more days at state."
It is not the ideal pre-tournament prep, but he is proud of how his team is handling the unexpected twist.
"They were ready to go today," he said. "It probably was a good experience, but it wasn't what we wanted to do by far."
"Kandice is a great player," said Lions head coach Matt Snyder. "You can say stop 23, but doing it is another thing. (BYU coach) Dave Rose said of Jimmer Fredette that he's a relentless scorer. Well, Kandice Gleave is a relentless scorer. She just has that knack for scoring. You know she's going to do it; you just can't seem to stop her."
The Lions are young with just one senior and one junior.
"It's been a tough season, a challenging year," he said. "I was proud that they continued to fight. That's crucial for us to learn. I hope we can carry the way we played that game into our summer camp. It's hard to say a 14-point loss was a good game, but we continued to make runs and the effort was there."
Westwood said his team's energy was much improved over last weekend's region tournament performance.
"I don't know what happened," Westwood said of the loss to Bryce Valley and then Panguitch. "Against Panguitch, we should have just stayed home. They were ready to go and we weren't."
Bryce Valley upset Panguitch during the region season and then defeated Piute and Wayne to win the No. 1 seed for this weekend's tournament.
"I've never seen them shoot like that," he said. "It seems like everyone is improving."