I owe part of this to five darn good Region 20 teams and coaches. We got beat up every night we played. We only came up with three wins all region. I attribute that to the play of Region 20 and phenomenal coaches. —Bryce Valley head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff

RICHFIELD — It's not often when a team that finished in sixth place in its region qualifies for the state tournament — let alone advances to the state title game.

But on Friday evening, the Bryce Valley girls basketball team, the sixth seed out of Region 20, made it happen.

The Mustangs defeated two-time defending champion St. Joseph, 31-20, in the 1A semifinals at the Sevier Valley Center. It was their third straight staggering upset following a win over Region 19 top seed Monticello on Wednesday and Region 20 second seed Piute on Thursday.

“We have a phenomenal region,” said head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff, explaining how Bryce Valley suddenly came onto the scene.

“I owe part of this to five darn good Region 20 teams and coaches,” he said, noting the accomplishments of Panguitch, Piute, Wayne, Milford and Valley. “We got beat up every night we played. We only came up with three wins all region. I attribute that to the play of Region 20 and phenomenal coaches.”

Throughout the year, Brinkerhoff has depended on the contributions of a couple of freshmen and has benefited from the improved play of his upperclassmen.

“The freshmen have grown and they’re doing well,” he said, “but I’ve seen more growth in our seniors, in our juniors, and that’s what impressed me the most.”

On Friday, the Mustangs hit a few shots early — including two long 3-pointers from senior Janette Pollock — to establish a slight lead. From there, they let their defense take over, limiting the Jayhawks to just three points in the first and third quarters. St. Joseph only hit three total field goals and scored the rest of its points from the foul line.

“I’ll tell you what I told the girls: ‘Let’s ride the horse we got here on,’ and that’s defense. We played,” Brinkerhoff said. “(St. Joseph) coach Joe Cravens, a phenomenal coach with a phenomenal team, two-time defending champions, but our defense is what got us here.”

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Freshman Samantha Chynoweth led the Mustangs in scoring with 10 points, while Pollock finished with eight and freshman Danielle Brinkerhoff had six. Junior guard Ashlee Chynoweth had five points and was a vital component on both ends of the floor.

St. Joseph junior Mady White finished with a game-high 14 points and kept the Jayhawks within striking distance until just four minutes remained in the game.

The Jayhawks drop into the consolation bracket and will play Rich for third place at 3 p.m. Saturday. Bryce Valley will face undefeated Panguitch, a team it lost to by 40 and 31 points already this season, in the title game at 5 p.m.

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.