After winning four straight state championships between 1996 and '99, the McQueen High School girls basketball team came back to the rest of Nevada last season and merely had to settle for being a state tournament qualifier.
Now, led by eight returning veterans, McQueen's girls have started their season by winning seven of eight games and appear primed to contend for yet another state title. At the very least, the Lancers are a team to reckon with in the 20th annual Carson Invitational after outshooting Armijo (Fairfield, Calif.) during their first-round contest on Thursday afternoon at Morse Burley Gymnasium.
The small and scrappy Lancers buried seven 3-pointers, four by Michelle Sperry, on their way to knocking off an Armijo club that brought a 6-0 record into the tournament and is expected to contend for the championship of its own Monticello Empire League this season.
"We knew Armijo would be a good team," McQueen coach Nick Brockovich said. "They beat us by 20, 30 points when we played in the summer, but I understand they're not 100 percent healthy now and they had to make the long drive up here."
Sperry finished with 16 points the Lancers, while lightning quick sophomore Traci Graham added 11 and Jill Bentley 10. Sperry, Bentley and Kae Blunt, all seniors, were members of McQueen's 1999 4A state championship team.
Tracy Allen scored 17 points, eight in the second quarter, and Jennifer to lead Armijo offensively.
McQueen absorbed its only loss last Saturday to Reno in the finals on the NevPrep.com Elite Eight Shoot-out, but the Lancers rebounded to knock off the defending zone champ and state runner-up Huskies 64-47 on Tuesday. Either way, Brockovich says it's still too early to call the Lancers state title contenders just yet.
"I think that's a little premature to say that. We still have a lot of kinks to work out yet; we're just trying to concentrate on getting better every game out," said Brockovich, who has eight returnees from last season's squad. "But we do have some girls who have put in a lot of work in the last year and they do have some higher expectations."
Lowry 53, Hug 47
Tara Davis scored 19 points, including five during Lowry's 8-0 run in the final three and a half minutes to help the 3A Buckaroos (7-0) turn back the 4A Hug Hawks (7-2).
Hug (7-2) rallied from a 37-26 deficit late the third quarter to take a 47-45 lead after Daphne Tuamoheloa converted a three-point play with 4:34 left to play.
Davis hit one free throw and followed with a baseline jumper to put Lowry back on top, 48-47 with 2:11 remaining. The Buckaroos never trailed again.
Jessica Bishop also scored 12 points and MacKenzie Swecker 11 for Lowry.
Jamesha Carson scored 14 points to lead Hug and Tuamoheloa had 12 before leaving the game with an injury midway through the fourth quarter.
MARINA 54, SPRING CREEK 21
Ten players reached the score column as the Vikings from Huntington Beach, Calif., sped to victory in their opener.
Mary Vaughn scored 11 points and Cara Congelliere added eight to lead a balanced offense and Marina (3-1) used its high pressure defense to limit the Spartans (2-5) to single-digit scoring in each quarter.
Carries Rowley scored eight points for Spring Creek.