It’s fun for the first time in a long time to make it to the championship. —Duchesne's Mashaylee Giles

RICHFIELD — Before Duchesne took the floor in Friday’s 1A semifinal, the Eagles' leading scorer, Mashaylee Giles struggled with an unusually significant case of nerves.

Her coaches reminded her that the anxiety she felt could actually help her.

“I was surprised Mashaylee was nervous,” said Duchesne head coach Eric Jessen after the second-ranked Eagles defeated third-ranked Bryce Valley 36-29. “I told her, ‘Just have fun.’ And one of our assistants told her, ‘Just seize the moment.’ I told them, ‘You’re going to be nervous. That’s a good thing. Use that energy and funnel it into the game. That’s what we do.'”

If Giles' performance in the game is any indication of how nervous she was, she may have been on the verge of a breakdown. She nearly outscored the Mustangs by herself, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

She was the only Eagle in double digits while Bryce Valley was led by Danielle Brinkerhoff and Brittney Shakespear, who scored nine points each.

“It was fun,” Giles giggled as her team ran past her to the locker room. “It’s fun for the first time in a long time to make it to the championship.”

Duchesne’s girls have never won a 1A title, but they'll get a shot against one of the best girls teams in recent memory - two-time 1A champions Panguitch - on Saturday at 5 p.m.

This year’s players have understood from the season’s start that making history was going to take the kind of effort they may not have yet given. Giles said there is one simple difference – focus.

“We’ve had a lot more focus, a lot more determination from last year,” she said. “And coach Jessen has helped us out a ton.”

The game was a nail-biter the first half with neither team able to get more than a two or three point lead. Jessen blamed his game plan.

“I went into a triangle and two to start the game because I was worried about Bryce Valley’s shooters,” he said. “And it was the wrong thing. I had to go back to our regular 1-2-2 defense. That was our best defense. …Out of the triangle and two, we didn’t rebound well. I was not very happy.” And whether it’s joy or dissatisfaction, Jessen shares with the entire gymnasium. To say he’s an effusive coach might be one of the great understatements ever uttered.

When asked about Jessen’s fiery style, Giles grinned and giggled again.

“You’ve just got to take it and whatever he says, you’ve got to put your mind to it,” he said. “He tells you to do a lot.”

She said there isn’t much the players wouldn’t do for their coach, who said he may have lost 10 pounds coaching Friday’s game.

“He just puts so much love into his players, and his game that we give it out to him in the game as well,” she said. “It just helps us so much.” Jessen won a boys basketball title at Bryce Valley in 2013, and he said it was tough battling one of his best friends, Mustang head coach Tyson Brinkerhoff.

“It was tough coaching against them,” he said. “Tyson is one of my very best friends. …It’s fun. They got us at the first of the year, so it was nerve-wracking to come play them.”

He said coaching girls is a much different experience.

“It’s different for a couple of reasons,” he said. “For one, girls listen to you more, literally. Boys are kind of stubborn and will kind of do their own thing. So we coach them to see and take advantage of what’s there, instead of running exactness on everything. We’ve developed and progressed on that. We’re getting better. …I’ve been more excited on the sideline coaching the girls. I don’t know why.”

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