It was a scene right out of the classic 1986 movie “Hoosiers.”
With his team practicing in the Burns Arena late Monday night, Pine View head coach Chris Brinagh wanted to teach his team a lesson that no matter where they were playing, no matter how big the arena or gym may be, that the height of the basketball hoop and the length of the free throw line are just the same as they had been all year.
“The girls thought I was crazy, but I wanted to show them and to help reinforce that nothing is really changing,” Brinagh said. “We may not be playing in a high school gym anymore, but that’s really the only thing that’s changing.”
The lesson was needed as the Pine View girls basketball team enters uncharted waters after the Panthers (13-9) went on the road last Friday and upset the top-seeded Union Cougars (11-10) from Region 10, 54-48, in the first round of the 3A tournament. The playoff win was the first since the 2010-11 season for the Panthers and certainly made the six-hour bus ride home from Roosevelt to St. George a memorable one.
“We were celebrating all the way home,” senior Stefani Gleave said. “It was so awesome to go on the road and to not only get a win, but to know that we accomplished one of our goals this season and to see all of our hard work pay off.”
While the lady Panthers accomplished a big goal this season, they made sure to emphasize that they aren’t done just yet.
“We so happy and grateful to be where we are, but we’re not done yet,” senior Tayvia Ah Quin said. “We still have other goals as a team and we’re excited to see what the rest of the week brings.”
With eight seniors on the team, Brinagh has a lot of players with game experience and loves what the girls continue to bring day in and day out.
“The girls still compete and practice like it’s the first day of training camp,” he said. “In the offseason the girls really dedicated themselves to getting better and it’s shown this year. Stefani has really surprised a lot of people and is one of the top 3-point shooters in 3A. Tayvia can do it all, and each of the seniors have really mastered their roles and to help the team wherever they can.”
Those seniors have helped the program rise after a difficult stretch just two years ago. During the 2013-14 season, the Panthers didn’t win a game and were outscored by more than 23 points per game. Instead of giving up and moving on, the now turned senior class has stuck with it, believed in each other and has continued to prove the doubters wrong along the way.
Now the Panthers have become 3A’s Cinderella team and are just three wins away from becoming state champions. But the road to success wasn’t easy and took a team effort to get where it is today.
“The season has had some ups and downs, but the girls never doubted,” Brinagh said.
The Panthers were dealt some bad news right as the season started as sophomore point guard Claire Newby sustained an injury during the first game of the year, causing her to miss most of the season. The team then called on sophomore Saraven Allen to take over the reins.
“Saraeven is steady Eddie,” Brinagh said. “She came up to me and told me that everything was going to be OK after Claire went down. She has a lot of confidence and has come in and did a remarkable job for us this season, which is crazy because she is coming off a significant injury last year. We didn’t know how many minutes she would be able to go, and this year she has made a huge impact on the team.”
Brinagh said the players deserve all the credit for turning the program around.
“Most, if not all of the credit goes to the girls,” he said. “They have really bought into the system and continue to work so hard, and it helps that I have great assistants, too.”
Brinagh, who loves movies and inspiring his team, moved past the “Hoosiers” theme and onto the “Rocky” movies as his team goes up against a very talented Morgan team, which is 16-4 this year.
“We’re past ‘Rocky I’ now,” Brinagh said smiling. “We’re on to ‘Rocky II’ now.”
Thursday’s contest between Pine View and Morgan will take place at SUU’s Centrum Arena with the game scheduled for 5:50 p.m.