RICHFIELD — If the Bryce Valley players ever need inspiration during a game, they only have to glance at their bench.
That’s where senior Ambree Leslie sits hoping her teammates will build a big enough lead that coach Tyson Brinkerhoff might put her in the game for a few seconds.
“If they kick butt,” she said after top-ranked Bryce Valley won its quarterfinal playoff game against Monument Valley 53-33," I get to go in.”
Once a key contributor for the top-ranked Mustangs, Leslie tore her ACL and meniscus in her knee and fractured her fibula on Jan. 28, essentially ending her senior season.
“It’s been rough,” she said. “It still is rough, just watching them play.”
Now she only gets on the court during games when the team builds a substantial lead.
Senior Danielle Brinkerhoff, who led the team with 22 points, said that their goal every game is to get enough of a lead that coach can be persuaded to let Leslie enter the game — even if she’s not allowed to move.
“I can’t even move,” she said. “Even for a second, it’s fine, as long as I can get on the court.”
Monument Valley caused the Mustangs some trouble in the first quarter as they play a more unpredictable style of basketball than the Mustangs have seen this season. The Cougars led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Bryce Valley battle back behind the outside shooting of Tyerah Tebbs, Keni Floyd and Karleen Roundy. But coach Brinkerhoff was still frustrated midway through the quarter when he called a timeout.
“I just hate not executing,” the coach said. “We’ve worked so hard, and we knew it would be a different style of basketball than we’re accustomed to. I felt like we were capable of better execution, maybe better defense.
"But that’s a strong team, they’re physically strong.”
Brinkerhoff said that even when they were up by 10, she felt the frustration because the team wasn’t executing offensively or defensively.
“It felt like we were losing at the time, actually,” she said. “We came out really tight and all keyed up, and I think a lot of girls were nervous. Toward the second half, we pulled it together and pushed through.”
She said a huge motivator is getting Leslie some playing time, which they did Thursday night at the Sevier Valley Center. She stood in one spot, while the team tried without success to get her the ball so she could score.
“We were trying so hard to get her the ball,” Danielle said. “It just wasn’t working out.”
Bryce Valley will take on defending 1A champion and one of the Mustangs’ rivals Panguitch Friday at 6 p.m. The teams have played three times this season, but the players said they’re thrilled about the match-up.
“It will never be boring to play Panguitch,” Leslie said. Added Danielle Brinkherhoff, “Our goal will be to get her in the game.”
The Cougars were led by Ervanne Cly, who scored eight points, Shaunisa Eskee, who added seven points, and Dizhoni June, who finished with six points in the loss.
The Bobcats defeated Tintic 47-31 in the game just before Bryce Valley’s. Panguitch was led by Brieann Birch’s 13-point performance. The Miners hung with the Bobcats until the final quarter of play. Tintic was led by Ashley Holden’s 11 points and Bailey Wall’s 10 points.
Region 19 champion Monticello advanced to Friday’s semifinal with a 45-37 victory over Rich. The Buckaroos pulled away from the Rebels with near perfect free throw shooting in the fourth quarter. The Buckaroos made 13 of 17 free throws in the final quarter. Leading the way was Atlanta Black, who scored 22 points and made 9 of 10 free throws in the win.
Melanie Lamborn led the Rebels with 10 points.
Tabiona won its quarterfinal match-up with St. Joseph 42-30. The Tigers were led by Gracie Rhoades, who scored 20 points, while Aspen Stewart added 10 points. The Jayhawks were led by Kathleen Tomon, who scored 15 points.
In consolation play, Duchesne defeated Whitehorse, 55-40, Piute defeated Green River 58-35, Wayne defeated Valley 59-24, and Milford beat Wendover 51-29.