Prince Hamlet once mused, “To be or not to be?” Pahranagat Valley coach Amy Huntsman dealt with “to do or not to do?” in using a full court-press against Wells last Saturday.
She decided she would, and it turned out to be the right choice.
“Today I just felt calm,” she said later. “It was more that I just felt like the girls were ready. They like to use the press, say it pumps them up.”
The press forced 10 first-quarter turnovers to take control en route to a 58-43 win over the Leopards in the Class 1A Girls State Championship Game at Lawlor Events Center.
“They’d seen our press, so the question was ‘Do you run it?’” Huntsman said. “It’s worked for us all season, so we ran our press and got some turnovers.”
In the semifinal game, those early turnovers helped Pahranagat (22-3) take the lead early, and they never trailed. They finished with 14 steals and forced 26 turnovers, turning them into 18 points.
“They’re so fast,” Huntsman said of her players. “When you have quick kids, you need to play to your strengths.”
But Whipple, the Southern League’s co-MVP, was disqualified on a technical foul at 5:53 of the fourth quarter and the Lady Panthers then turned to their other senior guard, Madison Williams. Up till then, Williams had contributed five rebounds and three steals , but had scored only four points.
She handled the ball expertly and was fouled often after Whipple was out.
And she made the most of the chances, too, going 7 for 9 at the charity stripe.
“Madi Williams played the best game of her entire life,” Huntsman said. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen her play. I was so proud of Madi.”
Wells (19-12) got as close as 39-33 after Samantha Stumpf hit the foul shots from Whipple’s technical.
But Morgan Harris rebounded a missed shot on the ensuing possession and went coast-to-coast for a layup to push the lead back to eight, and the Leopards wouldn’t threaten again.
Harris had eight points, 14 rebounds and three steals, and Gracie Carter added seven points and eight rebounds for the Panthers. Whipple had 15 points, five assists and three steals before she picked up the technical.
Stumpf had 20 points to lead Wells, who last won the state championship in 1989.
It was the rubber match of the season for the teams. They had split the regular season meetings, each winning on the others’ home court, with the Leopards handing Pahranagat a 50-33 loss in Alamo on Dec. 14.
Asked what changes she made for this game, Huntsman said, “We went with a 1-3-1 zone instead of man-to-man defense and were able to handle them a lot better.”
It was Huntsman’s record 14th state championship in her 24-year career, but the first since 2015.
The Lady Panthers ended the year on a 15-game win streak including a win over in Ely over 2A State Champion White Pine.
In the Friday semifinals, Pahranagat again faced the Eureka Vandals, a team they had beaten in the Wells WREC Tournament in December .
Throwing a full court press at the Vandals caused numerous turnovers and led to a 14-6 first quarter lead. However, Eureka regrouped and went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead at halftime to 22-18.
In the second half, everytime it looked like Pahranagat Valley would run away, the Vandals (16-10) were right there behind them.
But Whipple played the thorn-in-the-flesh for the Vandals, scoring a game- high 27 points on just 12 shots from the floor and 13 of 16 at the foul line, including 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers’ team speed was a big problem, too.
“I knew they were fast, but more than I expected,” said Eureka coach Travis Gallagher. “Whipple just tore us up. I don’t have anybody that could defend against her.”
Whipple, who hit all three of Pahranagat’s three-point attempts, drained a 3-point play in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers their biggest lead at 13 points. Then, with 2:23 remaining, Eureka responded with a 13-4 run to cut the lead to 46-42.
However, at that point, Eureka’s star player, Morgan Thomas, fouled out. “That really hurt us,” Gallagher said.
For the game, Pahranagat was 14 of 22 at the foul line.
Madalyn Taylor had eight points and nine rebounds for the Panthers.
Morgan Thomas led the Vandals with 21 points, and Cody Gibbs scored 15.
In the other semifinal, though Alyssa Hanks, Southern League co-MVP along with Whipple, had a game-high 16 points and 15 rebounds, her Round Mountain Knights lost to the Wells Leopards, 47-26.
Cameron Powers scored 11 for the Leopards, and Jacquelin Berumen and Amanda Murphy each had 10 points.