RICHFIELD — Panguitch coach Clint Barney took his oldest son aside Friday morning to discuss the basketball milestone that had become something of a mental millstone around Tyce Barney’s neck.
“There has been a lot of buzz about him getting to 2,000 (career) points,” Coach Barney said after the second-ranked Bobcats upset top-ranked Rich with a 33-29 win in the 1A semifinals. “I went to him this morning and said, ‘You’re not going to get there, Tyce, because we’re not going to play that type of game. Now let’s go win the game. That’ll be worth a lot more than those 2,000 points.'”
The senior said the conversation didn’t bring him down. It liberated him.
“I felt a lot better, like there was a lot off my shoulders — just to go play and not think about it," he said.
He said he’s tried to put the remarkable achievement out of his mind more than once, but fans tend to keep track and remind him just how close he is.
“Off the court it pops into my head,” said Tyce, who led the team with 14 points in the victory. “But on the court, I just want to win. So that’s all I think about.”
Coach Barney choked back emotion as he talked about taking the Panguitch Bobcats to the title game for the first time since 2007. While Rich has played in the 1A semifinals every season since 2008, the Bobcats' best finish in Tyce Barney’s four-year career before this season was fifth place.
“I just wanted to get him here,” said Coach Barney, struggling to suppress the tears. “Now we got a chance. It felt like David beating Goliath.”
He said he felt confident the Bobcats could beat the deep, talented Rebel squad if they could slow the tempo of the game — dramatically.
He said he studied a lot of scores and statistics before Friday’s semifinal victory, which at times felt futile.
“You can drive yourself crazy,” he said, smiling. “We really knew we had to limit their fast breaks. ... We wanted to be patient on the offensive end, take good shots and just stop their run.”
The key to the victory was in controlling the tempo of the game, which the Bobcats handled masterfully. Rich jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and Tyce picked up a quick foul. But the Bobcats managed to slow the pace and quickly responded with back-to-back baskets. The team traded hoops for most of the game, with Panguitch leading 16-14 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Tyce Barney made the most of a two minute and 10 second possession with a rebound and putback for an 18-14 lead.
"He's a heck of a player," said Tyce Barney. "He was a hard matchup."
In addition to the scoring milestone, there was a lot of pressure on Barney to shut down Argyle while scoring despite Rich double- and sometimes triple-teams.
"Tyce does so much for us," Coach Barney said. "And he's not a ballplayer who bounces up and down the court. He labors to get up and down the court. It's not easy for him. We ask him to score points, get rebounds and defend."
Coach Barney said all of the boys on the team, but especially the seniors, worked hard to make their childhood dream of playing for a state title a reality.
“This is what he’s dreamed about,” Coach Barney said of Tyce Barney. “This is what he’s written in his journals since he was 2 years old, playing in the state championship game.”
He said the real challenge will be to continue fighting for a dream most didn’t think was possible for Panguitch this season.
“We’ve got to be really careful to not be content with just that,” Coach Barney said. “(They can) enjoy it and go out and have fun with their fans, who came and supported them. And then (Saturday) come back and give it another good effort.”
The Rebels will take on Monticello, which hasn't been in the state title game in decades. The Buckaroos defeated Duchesne 62-42 in the second semifinal game to earn a berth in Saturday’s 5 p.m. state championship.
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