RICHFIELD — Sometimes a goal is so big, the only way it seems attainable is to break it down into the smallest, most familiar pieces.
That’s exactly what Monticello head coach Ben Wolford did in the Buckaroos’ semifinal win over Rich Thursday.
“We spotted them eight points,” he said after fourth-ranked Monticello’s 56-53 win over the Rebels. “We’ve always gotten to this game but lost. It’s one of those things where they have all these nerves and all these expectations. They wanted to play on Saturday. That’s our goal.”
By the end of first quarter, that dream was slipping away as the Rebels led 17-8.
During the break, their coach reminded them that wanting something isn’t enough.
“I told them to work on the little things,” he said, “work on their passes, work on looking up the floor, the dribble — it’s those small things that are going to help us win.”
Monticello hasn’t earned a region title since 1993, and they played in the semifinals that season. While they lost the semifinal game, they won their consolation game and finished third in the state. finished 3rd in state the same year.
“Not for a long time,” Wolford said. “We’re in new (un)charted territory.”
The Buckaroos began to chip away at Rich’s lead in the second quarter when they did a better job defensively. Monticello held the Rebels scoreless until 3:35 in the second quarter when Melanie Lamborn hit a pair of free throws to keep Rich in the lead (19-17). Lamborn then got an offensive rebound and put-back to extend that lead to 21-17.
But Atlanta Black, Michaela Wolford and Izabell Slade all answered offensively, and Rich led 25-24 at halftime. That’s when their coach reminded them that big dreams don’t come true without total commitment.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘You’ve got to give it 100 percent out on the floor’,” Wolford said. “I told them the boxing out was killing us. They weren’t boxing out; we needed to box out down low. They were getting too many easy second shots.”
Both teams shot better in the second half, but that was especially true for the Buckaroos, who took their first lead with 4:25 left in the third quarter on a field goal by Slade (33-32). The rest of the game was a battle with Monticello’s biggest lead a 46-39 edge they owned until 5:58 of the fourth quarter.
Allie Maughan had to make some critical foul shots in the game’s final quarter. She was 7 of 12, and said she made the most important ones, with less than a minute to play, thanks to the support of her teammates.
“Those were definitely critical,” she said, as she stood with her arm around Black, who twisted her ankle with just 22 seconds left in the game. “It’s nice when all your teammates come up to you and just say, ‘You can do this.’”
When she missed, they told her, “You got the next one. So it’s good to have your team behind you.”
Black said she’ll be fine for Friday’s semifinal game, and Maughan said she’ll do what she can by waiting on her and even “giving her a little ankle massage.”
Black, who finished with 22 points, she said she isn’t dreading the pressure that accompanies these games at all.
“The pressure is good,” she said grinning, “because it means you’re still in the game.”
Monticello’s reward for earning its first bid into the 1A semifinals in nearly 40 years is facing the two-time defending champion Panguitch Bobcats.
“We’ve got quite the matchup tomorrow,” Wolford said. “It’s time for us coaches to work a little bit harder tonight at the hotel room with some game film.”
Top-ranked Panguitch earned a spot in Friday’s semifinals with a 42-22 win over Tabiona. The Bobcats were led by Taylor Bennett, who scored 12 points, and Chesney Campbell and Whittni Orton, who added 11 points each.
Tabiona was led by Gracie Rhoades, who scored eight points in the loss. The Tigers will face region rival Rich in consolation play Friday at noon.
Bryce Valley defeated region rival Parowan 41-20. Samantha Chynoweth led the Mustangs with nine points, while Brittney Shakespear added seven points. The win means Bryce Valley will take on second-ranked Duchesne, which beat Valley 19-15, at 6 p.m. in a 1A semifinal at the Sevier Valley Center Friday.
Taylor Robb led Parowan with 10 points. The loss means Parowan will take on Valley Friday in consolation play.
In Thursday’s consolation round, Milford advanced with a win over Green River 58-26.
Region 18 champion Tintic rebounded from a first-round loss to defeat Monument Valley 66-44. Wayne defeated Wendover 71-56. Fifth-ranked Piute beat St. Joseph’s 49-24.