It’s what was separating the Fallon girls basketball team from the state tournament last season. Instead, the Lady Wave suffered a heartbreaking loss 54-53 to Spring Creek in the second round of the Northern Division I-A playoffs.
Despite the loss, coach Anne Smith and her youthful club are poised to make another run this season.
“We have learned a lot,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a good season. We have a lot of speed and can push the ball.”
Fallon opens the season at home at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Lassen.
With only three seniors — Gabby Sharpe, Hannah Lindsay and Ali Johnson — Fallon will rely on their leadership along with a corps of talented underclassmen.
One area of concern, though, is the post. Fallon graduated all-state forward Cady Cordes, but in her stead, though, is Lindsay, a 6-foot forward ready to take the next step.
She showed potential last season, although Smith wants a more consistent showing from Lindsay.
She averaged 6.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds last season, but must improve those numbers to take the pressure off the backcourt.
“I think we will be a little raw at the beginning of the season,” Smith said. “We told her (Lindsay) she is the leader in the post position. I think she’ll be all right.”
Joining Lindsay on the block are junior Shelby Smith, sophomores Megan McCormick and Miranda Ford and freshmen Kayla Buckmaster and Hannah Frank.
McCormick played in 26 games on varsity last year, while Ford was pulled up in midseason after a knee injury sidelined Janelica Galera.
“Hannah Frank adds height,” Smith added. “That’s good because they can practice against height. Kayla Buckmaster is just a bulldog. She’s that kind of player we’ve been looking for.”
The backcourt, meanwhile, must find a point guard, Smith said. Veterans Ali Tedford, Sharpe and Galera can handle the ball, but Sharpe and Tedford have mostly played at shooting guard and on the wing. In addition to those three, newcomers Patricia Leggett, Izzy Thomas and Johnson fill out the backcourt.
“All these girls are athletic, so I don’t think it will be a problem,” Sharpe said.
Galera, meanwhile, tore an anterior cruciate ligament and time will tell on how her knee responds to the rigor of the season.
The youngsters, Smith said, provide numerous options for the offense. Leggett is another outside shooter, while Thomas’ quickness will aid in bringing the ball up the court and on defense.
Tedford, meanwhile, is the Lady Wave’s leading returning scorer at 7.8 and was second with 1.4 assists per game last season.
“I think we all feel our season ended too early last year,” she said. “We are just coming back with a vengeance to make it farther this year.”
But the focus for this season, Smith said, has been shooting. Perimeter shooting struggled early last season, while free throws were a constant subject of improvement.
Fallon only hit 56 percent from the free-throw line. When the free throws fell, Fallon typically ran away from opponents as they did in a 54-39 drubbing over Yerington where they connected on 16-of-20 attempts.
“It’s just repetition,” Smith said. “I think we need to put more free throws into our practices. I know that we need to put more free throws in. It’s a weak spot for us.”
Other games, though, the shooting was sporadic including a brutal 6-of-60 performance in a 34-27 loss at Fernley.
But after that loss, the Lady Wave’s outside shooting picked up and carried them to a 46-31 win over Fernley in the playoffs.
“(After the Fernley loss) we altered our practice schedule,” she added. “More shooting when they are tired. So this year, we are starting with a lot of those same shooting drills.”