RICHFIELD — Losing on a last-second shot in Friday's semifinal broke the hearts of the Piute Thunderbirds.
It did not, however, break their spirit.
"When I close my eyes I can still see it go in," said Piute head coach Wade Westwood of the basket by Rich's Tristan Bowers that beat them in the semifinals Friday night.
The team, however, bounced back to earn a 62-53 win over Christian Heritage for third place in the 1A state basketball tournament Saturday afternoon.
It was the team they wanted to play, but not in the game they hoped to meet the top-ranked Crusaders.
"These guys wanted to play Christian Heritage all year long," he said. "We just wanted to play them in the main game. But they were still pumped to play CHS."
Last year's MVP Kandice Gleave did her best to try and contain sophomore Emilie Volk.
"She's a good player, especially for a sophomore," said Gleave. "It was fun to end on a win."
There was no stopping Volk, but Gleave did hold her to her lowest point total of the tournament — 16 points.
Piute's Chelsea Sylvester led the T-birds with 22 points. Gleave added 10 points and Tori Gass scored 14 points in the win.
It might not have finished they way the T-birds envisioned it earlier this month, but it did exceed their preseason expectations.
"I dare say I didn't think we'd be in this position at the beginning of the season," said Westwood. "But as the year went on, things got going for us. Then we sort of fell into a hole in our region tournament (finishing in fourth), but we climbed out of that in our play-in game."
Gleave said the team worked hard in Saturday's game to clean up their turnovers and give a complete effort on defense. The senior graduates with last year's championship and this year's third-place trophy.
"I will miss the competition," she said of graduation. "I love every part of volleyball, basketball, just high school sports."Comment on this story
Westwood said Megan Jensen and Gleave led the team this season as they tried to find a new identity post-championship.
"They have a good attitude," he said of his players. "They like to hustle and work hard."
The Crusaders were enjoying their first trip to the tournament and made quite a statement with their ability to score and play tough defense. The squad was led by Volk and Breanna Hurlbut, who scored seven points, Brittany Hurlbut, who added 13 points, and Mercedes Brown, who finished with 11 points.
The fourth-place finish is the best in Christian Heritage's history.