Amy Donaldson
Panguitch is led by four senior starters (from left to right): Bosten Englestead, Jace Eyre, Bryson Marshall and Trevor Wolfley. The Bobcats earned a 49-36 win over region rival Piute in the 1A semifinals.

RICHFIELD — Midway through the third quarter, Panguitch head coach Clint Barney asked who was ‘going to step up’ in the team’s semifinal slugfest with region-rival Piute.

“I felt like we had some careless turnovers early in the game,” Barney said after the top-ranked Bobcats earned a 49-36 win over Piute to earn a shot at defending the 1A boys basketball championship Saturday night at the Sevier Valley Center. “It’s just uncharacteristic of us. We’re a senior-laden ball club, with four seniors who start.”

It wasn’t so much big baskets or flashy plays Barney was looking for. It was just the air-tight defense that’s allowed the Bobcats to climb to the top of the rankings and drop just three games this season.

“They did,” he said of his players finding a higher level of intensity in order to pull away from Piute. “They stepped up. We made some good defensive plays. That’s, more than anything, what it was. I felt like we were allowing too much penetration and easy baskets. We just needed to play defense. We needed to get rebounds, and come down and run our sets.” The team got leadership from a lot of places in turning the game in the Bobcats favor for good, especially in the fourth quarter. While the defense held the T-birds to just seven points, senior Jace Eyre and junior Acey Orton came up big offensively.

Eyre finished with a double-double — 17 points and 11 rebounds — while Orton added 19 points and six rebounds. But it was a lot of little contributions that gave the Bobcats some breathing room as the T-birds relentlessly tried to chip away at any lead Panguitch could build.

Piute was led by Kesler Blood, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds. Gates Fullmer added eight points, five rebounds and three steals.

“Acey played really well,” Barney said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot. I also thought Trevor Wolfley, that last three minutes, played extremely well. He got a key steal and a layup, and it kind of stretched (the lead) into eight points, at that point. Every basket was big.”

Panguitch will face one of the three teams to hand them a loss this season for the 1A state championship Saturday night — Bryce Valley. Barney expects a similar game as Region 20’s depth – and its unpredictable postseason tournament —always guarantee a battle.