RICHFIELD — Their star player had just fouled out, and up to that point in the fourth quarter of their championship showdown against Duchesne, the Escalante Moquis had struggled to prevent the Eagles from driving to the basket.
Escalante did lead 46-37 after Dalton Lisonbee drained a three-pointer with 3:47 remaining.
Deseret News 1A tournament MVP Tim Hughes fouled out a few seconds later, however, and it seemed like the Moquis were going to have to hang on for dear life down the stretch.But over the final three-and-a-half minutes, Hughes' teammates proved to everyone inside the Sevier Valley Center that, more important than having the best player in the classification was the fact that they also had the best team.
As a team, Escalante played phenomenal defense down the stretch, keeping Duchesne out of the lane while holding the Eagles to just four points after Hughes went to the sidelines. That allowed Escalante to stay comfortably ahead, and the Moquis emerged with their second 1A boys basketball title in as many seasons as they beat Duchesne, 49-41, on Saturday.
"They've come together and have been together for so long that they just trust each other," said co-head coach Brent Cottam. "When someone penetrates on you, trust your partner to come help. And they did — they trusted each other tonight even when Tim went out."
Perhaps lost in the high-octane manor in which Escalante had beaten Rich in the semifinals was the fact that the Moquis played phenomenal defense in that game. However, with some of the shots that fell against Rich not falling against Duchesne, Escalante's defensive effort became all the more visible.
Escalante struggled to keep Duchesne out of the lane at the start of the third quarter and fourth quarter, but they closed out each period by shutting down the Eagles.
The Moquis led 40-31 after closing the third quarter on a 12-2 run, and after allowing Duchesne to creep back early in the fourth quarter, they managed to keep the Eagles quiet down the stretch with Hughes sitting on the bench.
"In the second half of the fourth quarter our defense finally rose up again," said co-head coach Greg Allen.
While Escalante struggled at times with dribble penetration, post players Brady Barney, Kevin Griffin and Kam Roundy did a stellar job from start to finish of slowing down Duchesne star Beau Browning inside.
"That was monumental for us, really was," said Allen. "The other stuff we're supposed to do, and we're supposed to play that good of defense all the time, but those boys rose up, those three kids."
Offensively, Kevin Griffin led the way for the Moquis, finishing with a game-high 22 points and six rebounds. Hughes, who said afterward that he was OK, clearly struggled with a bad back but added 12 points before he fouled out.
On the other hand, Marty Burt did an excellent job for Duchesne and finished with a team-high 16 points. Afterward, Allen couldn't say enough nice things about Duchesne or its coach, Stan Young, who earned his 500th career win earlier in the tournament.
"That's one good ball team that we played," said Allen. "They are dang good, and he has got more mileage out of those kids from the first of the year 'til now than any team in the state."
Getting a lot out of a little could certainly also be used to describe Escalante.
Despite having one of the tiniest enrollments in the state, Cottam and Allen have now won back-to-back championships in 1A and three of the last four.
"That's sweet," said Cottam. "It's a tough thing for schools to get three, and to spend so many years in Escalante without even getting to the state tournament, it feels good now."
1A All-Tournament Team
MVP: Tim Hughes, Escalante
Kevin Griffin, Escalante
Brady Barney, Escalante
Caden Andersen, Rich
Beau Browning, Duchesne
Matt Hoyt, Valley