RENO - Shooting 3-pointers has been more than a luxury for the Yerington High School girls basketball team all season.
Yerington connected on 10 treys Thursday afternoon, and they were all lifesavers, as the Lions turned back Spring Creek 61-54 in opening round play of the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Tournament at Wooster High.
Letitia Talbot scored 20 points, including a pair of treys, as part of a solid all-around performance that helped Yerington (22-7) overcome the inside strength of Division I champ Spring Creek (19-13) and advance to the state semifinals.
The Lions face defending 3A state champion Moapa Valley at 9 a.m. at Lawlor Events Center. The Moapa Valley Pirates defeated Battle Mountain 73-41 in an opening-round game played at Reno High.
Spring Creek enjoyed command of the glass with a 44-28 advantage in the rebound column. The Spartans had 29 of those rebounds on the offensive end - which contributed directly to 20 points.
That's a difficult statistic to beat, but the Lions had the equalizer in their arsenal.
"We're a good transition team and we do shoot the threes," Yerington coach Brett Edmunds said, adding that the 10 treys was a team season high. "Thinking back, I can't remember us missing more than four or five. That's a pretty good percentage."
Brandee Smith and Amy Sceirine each buried three 3 balls and finished with 15 and 12 points respectively. Stacy Tibbals and Talbot had two each.
Each one seemed to be important.
-- Talbot hit one off an assist from Sceirine to beat the first-quarter buzzer, cutting Spring Creek's lead to 15-12 at the time.
-- Sceirine connected from NBA range on the left wing, assisted by Kendall Castellani, to give Yerington a 17-15 lead with 6:18 left in the second quarter. The Lions never trailed again.
-- Smith's bomb from the top of the key gave the Lions some breathing room at 24-20 later in the period, then she hit another from the left corner to give the Lions a 29-24 lead just before halftime.
-- Sceirine hit two more in the third quarter, the latter breaking a 39-39 tie with 20 seconds showing on the clock.
-- Talbot and Tibbals connected on successive shots to ignite a string of nine unanswered points that pushed Yerington's lead to 51-41 with 5:28 remaining in the fourth.
-- Lastly, Smith swished a trey, assisted by Tibbals, to interrupt a brief Spring Creek run and push Yerington's lead back to 56-49 with 2:19 to go.
"We did a good job of taking care of the ball at the end," Edmunds said. "And somebody always seemed to come up with a big shot when we needed it."
And as has been the case so many times over the last two years, Talbot delivered for the Lions at crunch time. For example, the 5-foot-9 senior forward collected 12 rebounds (eight in the second half) to go with five assists and four steals.
"She scored 20 points and had some big defensive stops," Edmunds said. "She's always there to do whatever needs to be done. That's why, in my opinion, she is one of the top players in the state at the 3A level."
Castellani also contributed seven rebounds, three on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, plus she drew the assignment of defending Kelli Miller, Spring Creek's leading scorer. Miller scored 15 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. Allison McDade also had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Spartans.
"It feels so good to win, especially since this was my first state tournament game," Castellani said. "That was a very strong team we played tonight."
And the Lions are looking forward to their early morning date with Moapa Valley today.
"I don't think there's anybody we can't beat," Castellani said, "as long as we play our game."