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1A Girls: Panthers’ press helps Pahranagat Valley to title

Top-seeded Pahranagat Valley trailed Round Mountain by eight in the second quarter of Saturday’s Class 1A Southern League championship game at Basic High.

Then the Panthers full-court pressure turned the game around.

Pahranagat Valley roared back behind guards Morgan Harris and Karley Whipple, who helped force a flurry of turnovers that led the Panthers to a 56-47 victory and the league championship.

Harris, who led the Panthers with 21 points, 10 steals and seven rebounds, said her team simply improved their play as the game wore one.

“We worked better as a team,” Harris said. “We had good communication and reversed the ball and just kept it going with good passes. We just worked harder and put out more effort. We just wanted it more.”

Down 18-10 early in the second quarter, Pahranagat Valley (21-4) turned up the press and fired off a 10-0 run, with Whipple nabbing three steals to help spark the rally. Whipple’s free throws gave the Panthers their first lead at 20-18 with 3:21 left in the first half.

Whipple finished with 13 points and eight steals.

The Panthers led 24-22 at the half, and their defense was disruptive enough that they were able to push the lead to 38-30 after a pair of free throws by Whipple with 1:53 left in the period.

“We work really hard on that press,” Harris said. “That’s where we get all of our steals and points from. We definitely stepped it up and played better defense.”

The Pahranagat Valley lead grew to double digits in the fourth quarter, as Harris hit a jumper that pushed the advantage to 45-35. But the Panthers never completely pulled away from the Knights, as Alyssa Hanks scored 11 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to keep Round Mountain (16-5) in contention.

Harris and Whipple scored all of the Panthers’ baskets in the fourth quarter to help secure the tournament title.

“We have really quick guards this year. So we just play to our strengths,” Pahranagat Valley head coach Amy Huntsman said. “I don’t think that was our best four quarter game. But it was a fantastic win for us and I’m so proud of the girls.”

Tia Sample added 10 points for the Knights, and ignited their fast start in the fist quarter, connecting on three 3-pointers to help build Round Mountain’s 16-6 lead.

Both teams will head to the 1A state tournament in Reno next week.

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