RICHFIELD — Coming into Friday night's semifinal showdown against Rich, the Escalante Moquis knew what they would be faced with.
Escalante and Rich had squared off against one another in what proved to be an epic semifinal a season ago at the 1A boys basketball tournament, a semifinal which Escalante narrowly won. And heading into Friday's rematch, the Moquis knew that Rich, which is renowned for its grit and determination, would fight them for control of every single inch of the court.
However, not only did Escalante match the immense intensity that Rich brought, it beat the Rebels at their own game.
Behind the spectacular play of Kevin Griffin, Tim Hughes, Brady Barney and just about everyone else in an Escalante uniform, the Moquis had an answer for everything that Rich threw at them, and the end product was a hugely impressive 70-58 win.
"We just had to take the beating and go score," said Griffin. "Same on both ends. It was tough on both ends, so if they came down and got a couple baskets, we knew we had to go right at 'em."
Escalante, last year's 1A champion, will look to repeat as state champs when it meets Duchesne at 5 p.m. tonight inside the Sevier Valley Center.
As it played out, Friday's semifinal went exactly the way Escalante co-head coach Greg Allen thought it would when he woke up around 3 a.m. Friday morning.
"I was in bed asleep and I just stirred, woke up and said, 'Holy cow.' And I saw '1:23' on the clock, and I saw us up by 10," said Allen. "That's just the way I felt the game would go ... the kids came in the locker-room (afterward) and said, 'Coach, you're a prophet,' and I said, 'No, I just envisioned the game going that way.'
For the record, Escalante was up by 12 points with 1:23 on the clock, putting the finishing touches on a fantastic team performance.
Rich led early on Friday, but the Moquis roared back to eventually lead by 10 points, 29-19, midway through the second quarter.
Rich, with its guys also playing well, came at Escalante with several flurries from that point on, but every time that happened, the Moquis kept their composure and made plays to re-establish their advantage.
Griffin and Hughes led all scorers with 18 points apiece and Barney added 17.
Both Allen and co-head coach Brent Cottam heaped praise on Barney for his defensive work on Rich junior Caden Andersen. The star forward from Rich finished with a team-high 14 points but was slowed down by Barney's great defensive work throughout the night.
And as a team, Escalante played phenomenal defense down the stretch.
"We turned them back for a quarter-and-a-half," said Allen. "The last quarter-and-a-half we turned them back from everything they tried to do, and we were in their chest ... that quarter-and-a-half was maybe the best defense we've played all year."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company