RICHFIELD — The Tabiona Tigers won their first state championship in two decades Saturday night in Richfield during a game against Panguitch.
The Tigers outlasted a Panguitch rally attempt that drew the Bobcats to within three points with 1:32 left in the game.
“We peaked at the right moment,” said coach Lee Gines.
Gines was coaching the last time the Tigers hoisted up the gold trophy at the state tournament.
“I was 40 years old then,” Gines said. “It’s just as sweet at 60.”
When they won in 1999, Gines said his sons were playing for them. Now they have children of their own, and one of them helps coach the team.
“This is our vacation,” Gines said. “We just love basketball in our home.”
The Tigers sprinted out with an aggressive stance in the first stanza. The effort paid off with an early 7-0 lead. However, it also had a price as Hayes Giles and Kolton Iverson ran into foul trouble in the first eight minutes.
“The adrenaline got to them in the first half,” Gines said. “We had to take a timeout to settle down.”
After the timeout, the Tigers settled into their game plan, working the perimeter and striking at the right moments.
“I knew we had a good team and they’ve been playing well all year,” Gines said. “Our defense has been great all week down here.”
The defense proved key as it held Panguitch to five field goals in the first half, which ended 20-13 in favor of Tabiona.
“Our kids have been so focused throughout this tournament,” Gines said.
Wyatt Fabrizio scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter for Tabiona, helping spread the gap. The Tigers had doubled Panguitch’s output, 32-16, with 3:29 left in the third stanza.
Panguitch’s Acey Orton went on a one-man 14-point jaunt in the fourth quarter to pull the Bobcats within four points. He wound up leading all players with 19 points in total. He also pulled down 10 boards to lead both teams in rebounds, but his valiant effort wasn’t enough to overcome the Tigers. Tabiona went six for nine from the foul line in the final stanza to cement the win.
“It got a little scary,” Gines said. “Panguitch is a great team. I’m just so proud of our kids for sticking together.”
The win ends a season that’s had some hard losses for the Tigers, who came in as the third seed from Region 22.
“There was a lot of tough games we overcame,” said Giles. He said the early fouls were just one more adversity he had to overcome for the sake of the team. Giles finished the night with 13 points.Comment on this story
“We had the talent and ability and we just worked hard,” Giles said. “We all just believed in our hearts from day one that we could do it.”
Winning the championship was something that the Tigers' core group of six seniors has been dreaming of since middle school, according to Iverson.
“Boxing those big guys out was hard,” Iverson said. “They got pretty close, but we just slowed things down a bit and made sure we worked the ball.”
Deseret News 1A all-tournament team