Pinnacle boys ready for the big stage at 1A tournament
While the moment of clinching their first ever appearance in the 1A basketball tournament is still fresh in their minds, the Pinnacle High boys basketball team is ready to endure the familiar feeling they know all too well.
With a secure spot in the 1A state tournament which begins in Richfield on Tuesday evening, the Panthers are hoping that their hard work to get to the state tournament will overcome any lack of experience on a stage such as the state tournament.
"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to the state tournament and then try to make something happen down there," said PHS head coach Andrew Olson.
Consider their first goal accomplished. Now their focus is shifting on trying to make a little noise down in Richfield on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. when they will face Bryce Valley at the Sevier Valley Center.
The Panthers will need to try to contain Braxton Syrett who is averaging 23.2 points per game for Bryce Valley's high scoring offense. Syrett scored 41 points in a 76-73 double overtime loss to Panguitch on Saturday in the finals of the Region 20 tournament.
"Syrett's a great shooter and a dynamic scorer," said Olson. "The guys are going to need to work together on defense to try and contain him as much as possible."
Olson said while his players have played in big games throughout their careers, none have experience playing on a big stage such as the state tournament.
In fact, Olson may be the only one on the squad who knows what it's like playing in the state tournament. Olson played and later coached as an assistant at Roy High School where they participated at the state tournament.
"None of the kids have played on a stage like this before," he said noting that it can be a concern. "The first couple of minutes out there they might be looking around taking everything in. But I believe when the game starts, they'll be ready."
In their final regular season game, the Panthers traveled to Whitehorse and came away with a 72-63 win. Jake Hardy led the Panthers with 22 points. Dalton Rudman added 20 points including five 3-pointers as the Panthers hit 10 treys in the win.
"Offensively I thought we looked good but we need to continue fixing a few things on defense for the tournament," Olson explained.
Heading into the season, expectations were not high for the Panthers. Olson said they were picked to finish fourth in Region 19.
But with a senior trio including Hardy, Rudman and Taje Richardson, a vocal leader in junior Javanni Alyzayyat, and other players ready to step in, Olson believes the team has the pieces in place to make their time at the state tournament a memorable one, win or lose.
"It's a big deal to get there," Olson said of the state tournament. "We've got a tough road ahead of us, but I'm not going to try and make it into the biggest games the boys will ever play in their lives. It's going to be a fun atmosphere."