Week 29 Monday Motivation
Piute County School District,
If you weren’t in Richfield on Saturday, I’m sorry. It was an inspiring night. All the inspiration we need this week is right at Piute high School. If you haven’t followed the basketball teams closely this year, let me give you a quick summary. For those that have followed the basketball teams closely, feel free to reply with corrections to my errors or to call out my omissions of the most important facts. Or skip to the last few paragraphs.
First, the Piute High School women’s basketball team started the year with a target on their back. They were the defending state champions and they had only lost one senior. The first test of how good Piute could be this year came in their third game against South Sevier (Finished 2nd Place in 2A). That tough win on the road against a strong 2A team significantly increased the amount of attention other teams put on beating Piute. Two games later came the next big test. A road game against what was expected to be the toughest 1A team outside region 20 in Tabiona. Piute escaped with a two point overtime win. With each win the pressure to keep winning seemed to be mounting. The pressure increased when the team suffered another season ending injury in Milford. Saige Remund and Kaycee Gleave would both be watching from the bench after that December game.
The team reached 10-0 just before Christmas, beating Panguitch in Panguitch by 16 points. The team took the needed rest for the Christmas moratorium, but wasn’t ready to come directly back from rest to play the best team in 2A. Piute lost at home to Kanab (2A State Champion). The loss was disappointing, but also removed the building pressure to remain undefeated and served as a big reset button for the team. Piute went into the region tournament ranked first in the region and the state with no losses to 1A teams. After dispatching Water Canyon and Escalante, Piute played Panguitch for the region title. Panguitch was buoyed up by a home crowd and made the game very competitive. Piute won, but not by as large of a margin as their previous Panguitch games. It made some think that if Piute wasn’t ready for Panguitch at state, they could lose.
Piute started state with an easy win over the bottom seeded Manila Mustangs. In the quarterfinals Piute took on Water Canyon. The Wildcats were clearly significantly improved from the beginning of the season and Piute struggled to find a rhythm. Piute prevailed, but it wasn’t their prettiest win. As predicted, Piute faced Panguitch in the semifinals. Much like their first two meetings, Piute slowly added to an early lead throughout the game. The highlight of the game was at the end of the third quarter. Kassidy Westwood made a miraculous shot when she hurled the ball nearly three quarters of the length of the court to beat the buzzer and advance the lead to 13 points. Piute faced Tabiona for the Championship game. The game was tied at half time and it looked like it could be tight right to the end of the game. Then in the third quarter Piute started finding momentum and jumped out a small lead. Piute played conservative through the fourth quarter and held the lead to the end. The Tigers had clearly made it their goal to not allow Kassidy Westwood to have a big scoring night. They accomplished that goal but failed to account for Piute’s next highest scorer, Tera Morgan. Tera scored 24 of Piute’s 38 points in the championship game.
This championship is the first basketball back-to-back championship and the first back-to-back championship in any women’s sport for Piute. It was Piute’s 3rd women’s basketball state championship, Piute’s 4th basketball state championship, Piute’s 10th women’s sports state championship, Piute’s 12th winter sports state championship, and Piute’s 32nd overall state championship.
Now the men’s team. Piute’s men’s team started the year knowing they could win it. They were also only one starter short of last year’s starting lineup. The first few wins were good, but didn’t really scare anyone. The fourth game was a 20 point win over Manila and that caught some 1A attention. Both Piute teams were undefeated at Christmas, but that undefeated pressure was difficult to handle immediately following the break. Piute lost to Richfield just after the break. Like the women’s team though, the loss removed the pressure of being undefeated and reset the team. Just a week later Piute got their first look at Panguitch. Piute shot well and led by 7 going into the fourth quarter. Some tough breaks in the fourth allowed Panguitch to make a comeback and Panguitch took the lead with just a few seconds left in the game. That was Piute’s first 1A loss.
Piute didn’t lose again until they faced Panguitch for the region championship. In fact, Piute won the 10 games between those two Panguitch games by an average of 25 points. The only down time in that run of games was a weak 10 point win against Mt. Vernon. Piute should have won by 40 points, but the travel schedule for the week had them worn out and ill prepared for the game. With a smile Jaden Westwood said “I know the score says we won that game, but in my heart I feel like we lost.” Home court advantage proved to be very helpful for Panguitch in the region championship. Panguitch led most of the game and won by a comfortable 12 points.
Piute went into the state tournament as the number two seed and faced the same two teams in the first two rounds of state as the first two rounds of region. First Piute beat Milford and then Diamond Ranch. It was expected that Diamond Ranch would be tougher at state than at region as they would have a couple more players. It turned out that the extra players did not make a difference and Piute won by 32 points. Despite beating Manila by 20 points in early December, Piute took the semi-final game against Manila very seriously. Manila was good enough to keep with Piute for two quarters, but Piute jumped out to a big lead in the third and never looked back.
The championship game was played immediately following the state championship win by the Piute women’s team. The first few minutes were a little rough for both teams adjusting to the nerves of the situation and the atmosphere. Piute hit their stride toward the end of the first quarter and led 12-5 going into the second. Piute extended that lead to 11 going into the half. In the third quarter Panguitch made a run and brought Piute’s double digit lead down to six. Kyle Morgan then hit a huge three point basket to take the lead back to nine. In the fourth quarter Piute tried to play a little more conservative. Panguitch whittled away at Piute’s lead until with one minute left in the game Piute led by just four points. Kyle Morgan then hit the critical one-and-one free throws to put it back to six. Kyle averaged just over 6 points a game through the season, but put up 17 points in the championship game including 4 for 4 from the three point line. Piute held out for the victory. In the end, Piute needed every player playing their best to make it happen.
This men’s championship is the 2nd men’s basketball championship for Piute. It was Piute’s 5th basketball state championship, Piute’s 18th men’s sport state championship, Piute’s 13th winter sports state championship, and Piute’s 33rd overall state championship.
The current Piute High School senior class has won 8 state championships, more than any other senior class of Piute High School (Class of 1996 won 7). In addition to being great athletes, they are great students. They worked very hard to get where they are. Watching them play and listening to their interviews inspired me in several ways. Here are my two favorite examples from the weekend.
Example #1: With 7 seconds left in the championship game, Coach Tim Westwood put Kaycee Gleave and Saige Remund into the game. It was a powerful and emotional moment to recognize them. Injuries had put them on the bench for the basketball season. While we were so excited to see Tera score 24 points, seeing Kaycee and Saige step onto the court was a beautiful symbol of what a team sport is all about. Respect and remember every team member, no matter how big or small their contribution is.
Example #2: Jaden Westwood took a hard fall in the last minute of the game. He went out of the game only briefly, but appeared to still be in pain. In his post-game interview he still appeared to be in pain and emotional. His response to the first question was powerful… “I just want to give a special shout out to my dad, I mean, the hours we’ve spent in the gym, he’s coached me through everything, I know I wouldn’t be half the player I was if it wasn’t for him.” Not every student has a relationship like that with their parents and we have the great opportunity working in education to be mentors and examples to them. Lots of students don’t play sports or won’t play on a championship team, but every student needs adults that are genuinely interested in them and their success.
Thank you for remembering every team member and thank you for being great mentors to our young people. I hope we have another State Championship coming home on Wednesday with the FBLA club.
You are the champions of week 29,