The Lady Cowboys and the Cowboys both started their championship runs as two distinct, separate teams, with one defined goal – bring home the championship. As the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, it felt like somehow two teams had merged into one. Watching the tears of joy in the eyes of the girl’s squad after hoisting their own championship trophy hours earlier turn into tears of sorrow watching their counterparts, their brothers, their friends, lose in heartbreaking fashion was an emotionally confusing moment – ecstatic for the girls, yet heartbroken for the boys.
The long drive home from Salt Lake Community College gave the players and fans time to deal with the swirling emotions of joy and heartache. These strong, dedicated, young athletes gave the town of Kanab something most towns never get a chance to experience, a very rare moment in history to watch the girls play for the 2A State Championship, followed by the boys on the same night. An event that hasn’t occurred in Kanab High School’s history, according to the UHSAA’s record books that date back to 1976. It’s a night that will be ingrained in Kanab’s sports fans hearts for a long time. It’s the type of night we all know is not the norm, but when every Kanab High School basketball season starts from here on out, it will be the new hope. Until next season starts, Kanab fans will treasure and remember this night for a long time.
The Lady Cowboys began their run on Thursday against region rival, the Parowan Rams, and came out hot, creating a big lead in the first half 32-20. The girls looked great the first half, but then
struggled the second half as the Rams fought their way back to make it close. The Ladies battled hard to avenge an earlier loss at the hand of the Rams to prevail 58-56. Coach Klint Glover said,
From left to right:
Being a younger team on average didn’t stop these champions from taking State! Photo submitted by Karie Cornell.
2A State Tournament MVP clutches her heart as she walks off the court as a two-time champion after defeating Beaver in the 2A state championship game.
Freshman phenom Rylee Little rises up for two over a Beaver defender. KHS State photos by Jeremy Houston.
A picture shows a thousand emotions as Coach Glazier and Senior leader Kason Janes embrace after a heartbreaking loss in overtime for the championship.
Kason Janes battles through two defenders and gets one to fall for two points.
Senior Jordan Cornell hits from deep in the state championship game.
Anna Cutler hoists the trophy with pride as her teammates cheer in triumph.
Big man Logan Little tear drops a beautiful floater over a Rams defender.
“This run was different because we are still a team that is defining who we are, what we’re good at and what our identity will be. Last year’s girls already had that figured out. There were expectations last year and the girls lived up to them in a great way. This year was exciting because many young inexperienced girls had to step out of their comfort zone and break some barriers for the first time at the state tournament. They did a great job of just believing in themselves and lifting each other up to just keep playing hard.”
The girls then faced off against North Summit, a powerhouse program that has given our Kanab team fits in the past. Kanab got behind early against the Braves 9-5 in the first quarter, struggling to get their offense going, and went into the half down 24-18. Opposite of the previous game, the girls came out stronger in the second half, erasing their six-point deficit by the third quarter and then pouring on the points in the final stanza and closing out the game and sending the Braves home with a score of 51-42. Glover continued, “our girls stepped up at the end of the season by coming together and putting any differences aside and making a concerted effort to be a team. That’s one of the big things allowed them to stay positive and behind each other when everything didn’t go perfectly on the court. That stuff matters and they all made sacrifices so they could play with a little bit of a free mind and trust for each other. We still have a little ways to go there but I think we all recognized that in the end.”
The 2A Girls Championship game kicked off Saturday night at 5 p.m. against none other than the #1 ranked Beaver Beavers. The regular season matchups between the two were games of epic proportions with both games coming down to the wire, being decided by two points and one point respectively, with the Cowboys beating the Beavers in Beaver, and the Cowboys losing at home. Beaver, as expected, came with a great game plan under coach Jon Marshall, who has nine championships under his belt, the third most in state history. The first half, they pushed Kanab freshman center Rylee Little out of the paint, causing any interior passes to Little to be out of position, making it difficult for her to get to her spots. Beaver freshman Bradshaw kicked the offensive momentum off, scoring 18 in the first half and giving the Beavers a 22-15 lead. Coach Glover had the answer in the second half, and it came down to defense, holding the Beavers to only five-points in the third quarter, while Ashlynn Houston started to get hot from the outside, being aggressive and giving the Cowboys a much-needed offensive push to shift the momentum to the team in red. The Cowboys were able to put a 9-0 run together to close out the third quarter to put it within one. Kanab was able to keep that run going and take their first lead of the night with six-minutes remaining on some Rylee Little free throws and a Little layup to push it to 30-29.
The energy had shifted as the Cowboys had taken control of the game, and it always feels good to have coach Marshall call a timeout to regroup. The Lady Cowboys benefitted from strong defensive efforts from Emilie Gilberg and strong bench minutes from Beka Rogers and Sage Staton. Savannah Bateman also provided big shots to swing momentum for the Cowboys. In a tight battle in the fourth quarter, Junior Anna Cutler willed her way to find points in the clutch moments to help give the Cowboys a five-point lead coming off a high screen from Little, and dropping in a bank shot from straight on, (something she probably learned from her dad, Coach Cutler). Beaver wouldn’t go away quietly as Tawny from Beaver hit a three, cutting the lead back to two, but free throws by Cutler sealed the thrilling victory as she scored the last seven-points of the game for the Cowboys, giving them a 39-34 championship. Little finished the night filling the stat sheet, logging six points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks and an assist. Anna Cutler was named the state tournament MVP, with Rylee Little also being named to the all-tournament team.
When the sea of red flooded the court as the final buzzer sounded, it was a sweet moment to take down the #1 ranked Beavers with a young squad, giving the Cowboys its first two-peat since the Cowboys accomplished that in football in the 1980’s. It felt special without a senior on the squad. Coach Glover spoke about Beaver, “beating Beaver is always fun because they are a power program in Utah high school basketball. They have been for years. It’s a great rivalry and always a great win when we can beat them. Their girls and coaches were a class act, and looking at both programs there should be some more great rivalry games ahead. Our girls stepped up at the end of the season by coming together and putting any differences aside and making a concerted effort to be a team. That’s one of the big things, allowing them to stay positive and behind each other when everything didn’t go perfectly on the court. That stuff matters and they all made sacrifices so they could play with a little bit of a free mind and trust for each other. We still have a little ways to go there but I think we all recognized that in the end.”
The boys kicked off their run by taking on the #6 seeded American Prep Academy-West Valley and punched them from the get-go, taking a 26-10 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, closing the game out 72-59. The Cowboys would sail onto victory and sail into a tough semi-final game against the #7 ranked Duchesne Eagles, who just pulled off an impressive upset OT victory against the #2 ranked Millard Eagles. A bit of a different type of game for the Cowboys, which coach Glazier relied heavily on strong defense to shut down the Eagles, holding them to five points in the first quarter, and 10 in the second. The boys fell behind slightly in the third as pressure ramped up on both sides, with each looking for their shot at the title, but as the Cowboys dialed in, they were able to squeeze out the win 48-41 and punch their ticket to the state championship final for the first time since the new millennium hit in 2000. A long drought for the Cowboys, but an even longer drought without winning a first-place title since 1975.
The Cowboys would face off against the Parowan Rams, a region foe where, like the girls’ championship, both regular season games were split, but with much greater margins of victory. The Rams beat Kanab in Parowan by 20, only to turn around and have Cowboys beat the Rams by 30 in Kanab. It was a hard game to predict how it would go. Coach Glazier commented, “We knew it was gonna’ be a battle against Parowan. They were a great opponent. What made the game tricky is we had to remove our previous two games with them from our memory and just focus on this one.”
Parowan came off the ropes in the first quarter with a surprise as Sophomore guard Cash Mortensen scored quickly and effectively and the Rams took a 19-14 after one quarter. Glazier added, “throughout the game it felt like an uphill battle for us.” The Cowboys continued to struggle to find an offensive rhythm in the second quarter, only managing nine points and falling behind 19-nine, before clawing their way back and cutting the lead to five, 29-24 heading into the half. The Rams shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and 60 percent from three, as the Cowboys struggled, only shooting 43 percent from the field, and 20 percent from three. As some Cowboys got in foul trouble, Trent Orton offered a huge spark off the bench, taking two momentum shifting charges, and dropping in six points off the bench. The Cowboys cut the lead to two, 37- 39 leading to the final heart wrenching eight-minute quarter. Both squads struggled with foul trouble as the refs were making calls that clearly neither fanbase cared for, and some would still like answers on.
The Cowboys benefited from strong bench minutes with Preston Houston, Trent Orton and Brandon Dayea giving the Rams different, confusing defensive looks. The Cowboys got rolling late in the fourth, outscoring the Rams, but finding themselves down three, with about 15 seconds left. Coach Glazier drew up the perfect play, getting the iceman, Kale Glover rolling off a screen, and pausing the hearts of Kanab fans everywhere, waiting for the net to swish like a washing machine. Glover had done it again, and gave the Cowboys one last hope. The boys were able to stop Ram’s Felder from hitting a fadeaway jumper as the time expired, giving the Cowboy Senior squad three more minutes on the court. Glazier added, “I was amazed by the boys and how they gutted it out to force OT. I am a big fan of this team and I know the other coaches were as well.”
Overtime saw the Cowboys fall behind early by six, until Glover found his way to the ball and hit another clutch three to put the game within reach. A few possessions by both teams yielding no buckets, brought it down to the wire again. A big time stop by the Cowboys, and a missed free-throw by the Rams, gave the boys one last chance. With eight seconds left, Glover found Senior Jordan Cornell at the elbow for a three to tie the game, and as the ball fell short, so did the hopes of a championship. Glazier spoke about what this season meant to him and the coaching staff, “grateful that I have these lasting memories we created as a coaching staff and as a team. Hope the best for these seven graduating seniors. They are great kids and are set up to do great things. I loved coaching this team. Each boy brought a different element to the team which at times made it tough to blend them together. We were constantly working on chemistry. I love how they fought for each other and supported each other by the end of it. This will always be a special Cowboy team in my mind.” Kason Janes closed out the night with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Cornell added 15 points, with Kale Glover adding eight points and four assists. Cornell and Janes both made the Deseret News All Tournament team.
The Cowboys took home the second-place trophy, after taking home the third place trophy last year. While the night ended differently than hoped after an exhilarating win for the girls, the Kanab fans couldn’t be more proud to be a Cowboy on a night that brought thrilling rivalries, excitement, joy, pain, anger - at some of the refs calls, tears of joy, and tears of sorrow. But by the end of it, most importantly it gave us all an overall sense of pride to call Kanab home, and to have the opportunity to root on our tremendous student athletes excel at the highest stages. Great season to both Cowboy teams, you gave us all a night to remember for a long, long time.