ORDERVILLE – Throughout the first three quarters of the Region 20 contest between Valley and Panguitch, it seemed as if the Bobcats were going to pull off the exciting upset over the fourth-ranked Buffaloes. Valley, however, hit crucial free throws down the stretch and played solid defense to pull out a 51-47 victory.
"We calmed down and executed on the defensive end," senior Shane Baird said concerning Valley's play down the stretch in the fourth quarter. "That's what kept our offense going and helped us get over our slow start."
Panguitch came out in the first half determined to upset Valley. Senior guard, Riley Miller, led the way for the Bobcats as he sank a three pointer and a couple of baskets inside the key to give Panguitch a 14-11 lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter was again another hard fought battle. Both teams played excellent defense and created many turnovers. Hayden Harris brought energy to the Buffaloes play as he hit a crucial three with time running down on the clock to send Valley into the locker room with a narrow 24-23 lead.
Neither team could gain the momentum throughout the third quarter nor could they make a defensive stop. Makade Christensen scored his only basket of the game with time running out in the quarter as he made a three-pointer to give Panguitch the 36-33 lead heading into the final quarter of the game.
The fourth quarter started just the way Panguitch wanted. Bench player Dalan Bennett hit a jumper 30 seconds into the period to extend the Bobcat lead to five points.
But just as everything seemed to be heading downhill for the Buffaloes, Valley picked up the pace. A few costly turnovers by Panguitch were converted into points on the other end for the Buffaloes, capped off by a jumper in the lane by Harris with four minutes remaining to give Valley a slight 41-40 lead. The final four minutes relied on defense and free throws. Valley shot eight free throws in the final two minutes of the game, including four crucial foul shots converted by Harris down the stretch, to seal the victory.
When asked about how he was able to shake off the pressure and make his free throws, Harris pointed to the basics as the clincher.
"The first thought that went through my mind was one word – clutch," Harris said. "I just relied on muscle memory, shooting the same way each time."
Harris also said his team proved to be just as clutch as he was from the free throw line. This was exactly the scenario as Valley made 16 of 19 from the line.
Harris finished with 17 points to help the Buffaloes improve to 8-1 in region play and 12-2 overall. The Bobcats (9-7) were led on offense by Bennett and freshman Tyce Barney. Both players scored 13 points in the loss.
Lane Sorensen, a Senior at Valley High School, enjoys writing sports articles especially about basketball. Lane plans to attend Utah State University in the fall where he wants to major in Journalism.