RICHFIELD — The Thunderbirds of Piute High School knocked off Rich in a 48-29 girls basketball game Friday evening at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.

“That’s what we’ve been battling for all season,” said Tim Westwood, first-year coach for Piute. “We knew Rich would be a tough matchup, but we felt like we had a little bit of an edge inside.”

Rich started things off with a 3-pointer from Lauren Thompson, which helped the Rebels assert themselves early and build a 9-4 edge. Piute’s Alysen Talbot hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first stanza to close the gap to 4.

Two of Piute’s key players, Jordyn Kennedy and Vanessa Delgado, ran into foul trouble early, racking up two calls each in the first quarter. However, the girls were able to battle through it and continue to make a showing in the game.

“We told them they have to be careful with their fouls, and if the ref is going to call a reach, don’t reach,” Westwood said. “It’s simple arithmetic.”

Piute’s Emri Roberts opened the second stanza with an inside jumper to knot the game. From that point on, the two teams traded the lead back and forth until the break, when Piute had captured a 20-19 edge.

“We were trying to feel each other out in that first half,” Westwood said. “We were just too nervous the first two quarters. We went in at halftime and settling things down and came back to play a really good second half.”

Once their nerves were under control, Piute took the momentum and never gave it back.

The Thunderbirds held the Rebels to just two field goals in the back half.

“Our defense is what got us through this game,” Westwood said. “That’s what we’ve preached all year. The offense will follow the defense.”

Kennedy led a balanced scoring attack for the Thunderbirds, with 11 points and six rebounds. In all, eight of Piute’s girls put points on the board.

The victory gives Piute a shot at the state championship against Region 20 rival Panguitch, a team that went undefeated during league play.

“This is our competition throughout the whole year,” Westwood said. “We play to try and beat Panguitch.”

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It’s been close so far. Panguitch won the teams’ two earlier meetings this season 38-36 and 42-37. Piute is hoping to avenge those losses in the title bout, Westwood said.

Panguitch had little trouble punching its ticket to the championship game as the Bobcats dished out a 54-37 victory over Whitehorse Friday.

Mataya Barney totaled 18 points for Panguitch, while Kiesa Miller had 12 against Whitehorse. Shudeen Begay drained five downtowners on her way to 19 points to lead the effort for Whitehorse, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Bobcats.

Panguitch and Piute play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Richfield for the trophy.