... It’s going to be an awesome party in Panguitch tonight. —Panguitch head coach Clint Barney
RICHFIELD — Second chances can be tough to come by in life.
So when the Panguitch boys basketball team was fortunate enough to get one, they made sure to take full advantage, using the regret of a region loss to propel them to their second consecutive state title.
“You don’t want to wish for a team, because any team can beat you, but we weren’t shying away from this rematch,” said Panguitch head coach Clint Barney, after the Bobcats earned a 53-43 win over Bryce Valley, the team that defeated them in the Region 20 tournament two weeks ago. “We used it as locker room material. We felt like we didn’t play well at the region tournament. We missed foul shots, the complete opposite of what we did tonight.”
Barney’s pregame preparation was difficult, as he watched his daughter, Mataya Barney, come off the bench in a critical role for the girls basketball team, coached by his older brother, Curtis, as they earned the 1A girls championship.
“Yeah, your daughter is on the team, and then your dad and brother are coaching, and you get to be the second act,” Clint said, laughing. “That’s tough to follow. No pressure or anything. I’m here to support the girls, and, of course, my daughter is on the team. I’m nervous for her. She’s out there in big-time situations. So yeah, it’s hard to prepare. But it’s going to be an awesome party in Panguitch tonight.”
For the second time in the school’s history, both the boys and girls basketball teams won state championship in the same season. And while Panguitch did it in 2001, it happened twice on Saturday — Salem Hills did it in 4A, while Panguitch accomplished it in 1A.
“I hope we have two fire trucks,” Barney said laughing.
The Bobcats led most of the game, but a third-quarter comeback mounted by the Mustangs made Barney nervous
“Let me tell you, that Bryce Valley team, they’re undersized, every kid handles the ball well,” Barney said. “They are tenacious, they get after it, and Coach (Gary) Syrett is a classy guy, who I admire and respect. They weren’t going to quit. They got down to two points, and we kind of spread it out, and I’m kicking myself, you know. We slowed it up, but we did miss a few layups. We still felt good about what we were doing; we just didn’t convert.” While the Bobcats were led by their usual stars — Acey Orton, who scored 16 points, and Jace Eyre, who scored 13 and grabbed 10 rebounds — other players made the Mustangs pay for trying to shut down those two players.
“The awesome thing about tonight’s game is that we got contributions from everybody out on the floor, which at times we’ve struggled with,” Barney said. “Eyre and Orton have led us, I think combined they average about 38 points a game. You know, you get in these tournaments and teams are going to take away your best offensive options. It’s great to see other kids step up, contribute, get big baskets, and make our free throws.”
The Bobcats dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Mustangs 27-12.
Barney wasn’t the only one who worried about the pressure of following the thrilling victory of the girls just 30 minutes before their game started. Jace Eyre’s sister, Karlee, was key in the girls’ victory, and he was both thrilled and not about to let her be the only state champion in the house this weekend.
“She played a heck of a game,” he said. “It’s hard to live up to her. I’m really glad she has one more year. Kind of (felt pressure), the girls, you can’t let them show you up. They played a heck of a game. It’s pretty exciting (winning titles in the same night).”
1A Boys All-Tournament Team
MVP: Acey Orton, Panguitch
Jace Eyre, Panguitch
Austyn Brinkerhoff, Bryce Valley
Burke Pallesen, Manila
Easton Syrett, Bryce Valley
Beau Sylvester, Piute
Honorable mention: Kanyon Lamb, Panguitch; Tate Leech, Bryce Valley; Kesler Blood, Piute; Jordan Lucio, Manila.