RICHFIELD — The exhaustion manifested itself clearly when Bryce Valley senior Danielle Brinkerhoff’s free throw didn’t even hit the rim as her team clung to a one-point lead in overtime.
The weight of her own dreams was heavy enough, but with two of the seniors who helped the No. 1 Bryce Valley Mustangs make it to the 1A championship game on the bench, the soft-spoken guard shouldered more than her share of what it would take to earn the school’s first girls basketball title.
“I just had to keep going, to give it everything I had,” Brinkerhoff said through tears as friends and relatives lined up to hug her after Bryce Valley earned it’s first girls basketball title with a thrilling 37-36 overtime win against a tough, unranked Tabiona team. “I knew we had it in us. I was frustrated, but I wasn’t going to doubt.” She shook her head when asked about the missed free throws because there were four in the game’s final minutes.
“I just had to rely on my teammates,” said Brinkerhoff, who was named the 1A tournament's MVP with a 13-point, defensively gritty performance. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Brinkerhoff might have been battling fatigue and frustration, but she didn’t have to do it alone. Thanks to the clutch 3-pointers of an especially cool-headed, confident sophomore, the Mustangs not only fought back from an eight point deficit in the fourth quarter, but they closed the game with a 15-3 run.
“No, I don’t normally play that much,” said sophomore forward Karleen Roundy, who finished with 11 points. “I’m just on the bench, and I just come off to shoot big shots. I had to do it for my teammates. I was comfortable. I love to shoot it.”
Roundy, coach Tyson Brinkerhoff said, “has oodles of confidence. We’ve won a couple of big-time games, and she’s responsible.”
The two teams swapped leads in a game that was tight the entire way. The Tigers took the lead seconds into the fourth quarter and then stretched their lead to 30-22 before Samantha Chynoweth hit her only field goal of the game to start the Mustangs' offensive effort. With just over two minutes to play, Roundy intercepted a pass, which translated to Tyerah Tebbs hitting a layup that brought the Mustangs to within two points.
Then, with 48 seconds left in the game, Brinkerhoff earned a steal and then passed it to Tebbs, who was fouled on a layup. Tebbs missed both and Tabiona got the ball back with 40 seconds on the clock.
Brinkerhoff came up with another steal but fell out of bounds, but then Tebbs’ defensive pressure forced a Tabiona guard out of bounds. The Mustangs got the ball and with 24 seconds to play, Brinkerhoff hit the game-tying jumper to send the game into overtime.
As Tabiona battled the state’s No. 1 ranked team, coach Jake Fabrizio said he couldn’t have been more proud.
“All year our kids have worked hard,” he said as the stands emptied onto the floor to congratulate the team. “Nobody even thought we were a top five team in the state. We came in with our hearts and just decided we were going to play basketball.” Tabiona’s Shaelee Nay finished with nine points, while McKall Giles added nine points and Aspen Stewart led the team with 10 points.
Chynoweth picked up her fifth foul just 26 seconds into the overtime and Nay hit both free throws. Watching her teammates struggle to close out the game was tough, but she said Ambree Leslie’s company on the bench and Brinkerhoff’s effort on the floor sustained her.
“I’m like, ‘Danielle, you got this, you’ve got to focus,’” Chynoweth said of what she told Brinkerhoff in the final time out of the game. “‘You just take it all the way. You can do it.’ She’s the heart of our team.” She admitted to having doubts, but like Brinkerhoff, she chose to focus on the fact that while there was time on the clock, they had a chance to win.
“I was a little bit worried,” she said. “But I knew we could do it. It’s amazing.”
Chynoweth wasn’t the only one with doubts.
“I was working on my postgame speech in my head,” said coach Brinkerhoff, who tried to make jokes to help his frustrated players relax in those final minutes. “I’ve lost this game a time or two.”
He said their theme was “Refuse to lose.”
That sentiment was never more evident than when Danielle Brinkerhoff missed a free throw but chased her own rebound down, and as she flew out of bounds, her father called time out so they could retain possession of the ball with just seconds on the clock. “That play, right there,” Brinkerhoff said, shaking his head. “I’ve got to get them in the locker room so I can tell them how proud I am of them.”
Panguitch took third place with a 34-25 win over Monticello. Rich claimed fifth place with a 48-28 win over Tintic. Wayne claimed sixth place with a 61-41 victory over Milford.
1A All Tournament Team
MVP Danielle Brinkerhoff, Bryce Valley
Karleen Roundy, Bryce Valley
Samantha Chynoweth, Bryce Valley
Shaelee Nay, Tabiona
McCall Giles, Tabiona
Gracie Rhoades, Tabiona
Melanie Rhoades, Rich
Brieann Birch, Panguitch
Atlanta Black, Monticello
Courtney Jackson, Wayne
Melanie Lamborn, Rich