RICHFIELD — Breanna Nelson’s elbow throbbed from the foul that sent her careening to the floor and then to the free-throw line with 10 seconds left in Bryce Valley’s semifinal game against defending state champion Panguitch.
The junior let herself cry, but there was no way she was going to let her coach take her out of the game that she had a chance to finish as the Mustangs clung to a 27-24 lead.
As it turned out, she helped her team hold off their region rivals with a 28-24 semifinal win, but not with that free throw.
Nelson was obviously in significant pain, wiping away tears and shaking her hand, which prompted her coach to ask her if she needed to come out of the game.
“He asked if I was OK,” Nelson said, still holding her elbow as her team celebrated in the nearby locker room. “And I had to be OK because I want to impress him all the time. I just had to get up and put them in.”
She missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but chased down her own rebound, and just as she fell to the floor with a Bobcat defender, her coach called a timeout, securing their final possession.
“She is a woman of action,” said head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff, who slumped against a wall like he’d just played 24 minutes of basketball. “She’s a hard-nosed defensive player and she proved that on the floor. She’s on the floor only for her defense because she goes and goes and goes.” In fact, if she makes a mistake, he said, it’s being too aggressive.
“And that’s a lot easier to back off than trying to get girls to play hard on defense,” Brinkerhoff said.
It was, in fact, Nelson’s steal of a Bobcat pass with 13 seconds left in the game that led to the foul that sent her to the free-throw line. But after her miss, her rebound and the timeout, it was teammate Tyerah Tebbs who made the game-clinching free throw with five seconds left in the game. She finished with six points.
The game was a thriller from the start, with fourth-seeded Panguitch proving why it's a powerhouse in the 1A ranks.
“Kudos to Curtis Barney and his program,” Brinkerhoff said. “People can say they're not as good, whatever. That’s a well-coached, well-disciplined program, and they know how to win here.”
Panguitch was led by Brieann Birch’s eight points, Brittney Henrie’s six points and Shantae Miller’s four points. This year the Bobcats and Mustangs split in the regular season, each winning the game on their home courts. Brinkerhoff said he knew it would take defense to beat Panguitch, especially in the state tournament.
"I think our defense was as good as I've seen it," he said.
Bryce Valley was led by Danielle Brinkerhoff’s eight points, who couldn’t stop her own tears as she tried to put into words how she felt about finally beating Panguitch in the state tournament.
“It feels so good, I can’t even explain it,” she said, tears filling her eyes as she smiled because her teammates' celebration was so loud it was hard for her to be heard in the postgame interview. “They had their three years to shine and take state, and it’s our turn to go win now.”