RICHFIELD — The elation of a 16-point lead quickly subsided when Rich coach Scott Ferguson reminded his jubilant, teenage players of one sobering fact.
"I told them, 'That's what we were down yesterday against Piute,'" he said of his halftime speech in Saturday's 1A championship game against Bryce Valley. "And we came back and won. So we need to come out with the same intensity."
He wasn't just trying to scare the Rebels into playing hard.
The 17-year veteran was a little nervous himself. After all, the Rebels had two come-from-behind, one-point victories during the 1A state basketball tournament this week.
The tactic worked, as the Rebels sustained the fire they showed from the game's opening whistle all the way to the final buzzer of their 47-26 win over the Mustangs.
"I don't know what got into them," he laughed as his team celebrated the school's third title in the last five years. "It gets better and better. ... It's always different girls so it's just as fun."
The team was so balanced that each game different players had the chance to be heroes. Throughout the tournament, junior Courtney Lamborn provided solid defense, near-perfect free-throw shooting and 31 points in the semifinal comeback. She had just seven points in the championship game, but is was her defense that earned her the 1A Tournament MVP award.
"We thought we'd had enough close calls," she said while her teammates cut down the nets at the Sevier Valley Center. "We talked about finishing strong ... and we just wanted to do that. We were all playing with no regret."
The Rebels had a tough road to the championship, thanks to some upsets in the Region 20 Tournament that seeded region champion Piute and second-place Panguitch fourth and third, respectively.
"Yes, we did earn it," Ferguson said of beating three ranked teams en route to the championship. "I was really proud of our focus."
Especially because of the emotional energy expended beating all of those quality teams.
"They had the focus to come from behind twice in tough games, and they still had the energy to play like they did tonight. I'm really proud of them."
Lamborn said looking at the bracket before the tournament began made her "a little nervous."
"But it makes the victory that much sweeter," she said smiling.
Playing in the title game was a first for Bryce Valley, and they seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience — and Rich's full-court press.
"Rich is a good team," said Mustangs' head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff. "I think our youth caught up to us a little. They beat all the schools in our region."
Experience may have made a difference, he said.8 comments on this story
"They've been here before," he said. "But I'm proud of our girls. They accomplished a lot of firsts for our school this year."
State 1A Girls All-Tournament Team
MVP: Courtney Lamborn, Rich
Tristi Jacobsen, Rich
Tristan Bowers, Rich
Sydney Cornforth, Bryce Valley
Whitni Syrett, Bryce Valley
Kandice Gleave, Piute
Megan Jensen, Piute