RENO - All the shots seemed to fall for Dayton High School in the first half on Thursday night. In the second half, it was the Dust Devils who fell ,as Pershing County rode off with a 70-60 opening-round victory in the 3A Division II boys basketball tournament at Bishop Manogue High School.
The Mustangs from Lovelock trailed by 13 points in the first half and by as many as 12 in the third quarter before they rallied to advance into the division finals and to a berth in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A Tournament next week in Reno.
Pershing County will play Bishop Manogue for the division title Saturday at 5 p.m. at Mineral County High School in Hawthorne. Manogue moved into the final with a 91-61 triumph against Mineral County in the second half of Thursday's tournament double header.
Dayton was in position to keep its season alive after a first half in which it shot 6-for-9 from 3-point range en route to a 41-33 lead. However, the Dust Devils were only 1-for-12 from beyond the arc after the intermission and only scored 19 points total in the final two periods.
For Dayton, which closed the book on its season with a 14-14 record, coach Ric Garcia felt the loss was more than a case of shots not falling.
"What it boiled down to, we tried to force too many things," Garcia said. "We fouled too much, we didn't want to put them at the line; and we turned the ball over in situations that led to them getting layups, and that was something we had discussed.
"Obviously they stepped up the defense, their double teams caused us some problems," he continued. "But that's why Lovelock has gotten to where they're at. They never quit; they just keep coming at you."
John Grentz, Brandon Swindlehurst and sophomore Matt Jones combined to score 57 points for lead Pershing County (13-12).
"We're having a great year. We didn't expect to be where we are now," Pershing County coach Lance Condie said. "Beating a really good Dayton team tonight - that team was at state last year and Ric (Garcia) is a good coach - was really a big accomplishment."
Grentz led all scorers with 20 points for Pershing County, while Swindlehurst scored 19 and Jones 18. Jones knocked down four 3-pointers, three in the first half.
"Dayton dominated us in the first half," Condie said. "If it hadn't been for Matt Jones stepping up with those big 3s, we might not have been in the game."
What was the difference between the two halves?
"The difference, I thought, was that Dayton stopped hitting their shots," Condie said. "They were working just as hard and they got some good looks, the shots just weren't falling."
Dayton led 28-15 and 40-27 after Adam Sayre stroked 3-pointers in the second period. And the Dust Devils were still up by a 52-40 score after Sayre fed Anthony Martinez for an outside jumper with 4:39 to go in the third period.
Then the tide turned as Pershing County embarked on a 14-2 run over the rest of the period to pull event at 54-54. During their run, the Mustangs scored eight points on layups and shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Pershing County took its first lead of the game, 59-57, on a putback by Richard Vasquez with 6:17 remaining to play. The Mustangs never trailed again.
Josh Goss scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds (six on the offensive end). Sayre also scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out five assists. Martinez contributed 12 points and five assists.