High school girls basketball: No. 1 Panguitch rolls past Rich, moves into 1A title game
RICHFIELD — The game plan is always to run.
And to run and run and run.
It was worked all season for the undefeated Panguitch girls basketball team, and it was a successful tactic again Friday evening when the Bobcats jumped out to a quick lead and cruised past the Rich Rebels, winning 51-20 in the 1A semifinals at the Sevier Valley Center.
“That’s been our game plan all year long,” said Panguitch head coach Curtis Barney. “That’s what we do and what we do well.”
The Rebels scored the opening bucket, but the Bobcats responded immediately with a 12-2 run to gain control of the game. The second quarter had a similar storyline as Panguitch held Rich to just six points and totaled 13, eight of which were scored by sophomore guard Whittni Orton.
“An outstanding athlete,” Barney said of Orton, who had her hand on nearly every loose ball and generated the majority of Panguitch's fast break opportunities. “She’s just one of those people who, if you had an employee and they said, ‘I’m young and hard working and want to continue to get better,’ you’d hire them on the spot. She’s one of those kind.”
Orton, meanwhile, feels she fits perfectly into Panguitch's style of play.
“I’m just not really tired, so I run,” said Orton, who finished with 11 points. “I just want to get lots of steals and like to play aggressive. It’s more fun when you play hard and aggressive and go for the ball.”
Loaded with young cross-country state champions, including the individual champion in Orton, the Bobcats tend to gain speed and energy as the game progresses.
“We said we wanted to continue to run but not at the expense of turnovers,” Barney said. “Our team’s really aggressive and fast on the outside, so we wanted to cause pressure on the outside so they couldn’t hurt us with their bigs on the inside.”
Panguitch reached double figures each quarter while holding the Rebels to no more than six points in a single period. In the end, Panguitch's coach was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought we did a good job of contesting every shot,” he said, “and limiting them to one shot and then getting the boards.”
Six different players scored for Rich, led by five points each from Danielle Huefner and Cami Lamborn. With the loss, the Rebels drop into the consolation bracket, playing for third place in the 3 p.m. game Saturday.
The Bobcats, who lost on the opening day of the tournament a year ago, chalked that short tourney run up to inexperience. A season later, and with a spot secured in the title game, Panguitch is living up to expectations.
“We knew we were good enough and we knew we were capable. It’s just different when you get it here,” said Orton. “You’ve just got to play as a team and work hard every second to make it to the championship.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.