RICHFIELD Piute would have been delighted to play just about anybody for the right to advance to the 1A boys basketball championship game.
But the fact they got Region 15 rival Wayne?
Last weekend, Wayne knocked off Piute at the Region 15 championships by draining a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Thunderbirds had a tough time letting go of the defeat, and they had hoped to face Wayne again at some point during this week's 1A tournament.
That opportunity came Friday evening in the semifinals, and they took full advantage.
Tight and tense throughout, Piute reeled off an 8-0 run to begin the fourth quarter and made enough plays down the stretch to emerge with a 39-34 win over the Badgers.
"It wasn't really revenge, but we wanted nobody else but them," said Piute guard Skyler Steed, who led all scorers with 14 points. "And we wanted to prove that we're a good team."
Piute will face Escalante tonight in what will be an all-Region 15 finale for the state championship. It will be the T-Birds' first title-game appearance since they won it in 1996.
"It's pretty cool because all eyes are kind of on us right now," said Steed. "Escalante, they've taken the championship two years ago. It's been kind of a drought for us, and so it's exciting to put us back there.
"It's been a dream my whole life to play in a championship game."
Down two points at the start of the fourth quarter, Piute made its move. Dallas Sylvester helped key an 8-0 run, and Steed and Tyson Westwood made baskets after that to secure the victory.
Westwood had 12 points, four assists and four steals, and Sylvester added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Steed, Sylvester and teammate Robert Crose are academic All-State selections, and Piute coach Steve Hoagland has repeatedly praised the character of his players.
That theme continued after his squad beat Wayne.
"I've said this every night and I haven't seen it in the paper, but I have good kids that I love to death," he said, smiling.
"I can't give enough credit to my kids."Tyce Peterson scored nine points all from three-pointers to pace Wayne offensively, and Porter Ellett and Trevor Taylor added eight and seven, respectively.
Top performer: Skyler Steed scored 14 points and helped Piute exact revenge against Wayne. Key stat: The T-Birds ripped off an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter and held on from there. Next: Championship game, Saturday, Escalante vs. Piute, 5 p.m.
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