For the third time in four years, the Dayton and Yerington high school girls basketball teams are preparing to play for a berth in the 3A state tournament.
And if past history is any indication, expect to see another struggle when the Lyon County rivals collide at 6 p.m. tonight in opening-round play of the 3A Division II tournament at Mineral County High School in Hawthorne.
The winner will advance to play in the championship game on Saturday against the survivor between Mineral County and Bishop Manogue. The winners will also receive invitations to the 3A state tournament Feb. 24-26 at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
"Three times now, it's come down to them and us. And it's always a battle," Yerington coach Brett Edmunds said.
In 1997, Dayton won the battle to qualify for state. In 1998, Yerington won the rematch. Last year, Bishop Manogue defeated Yerington and Mineral County defeated Dayton in the division openers.
Tonight, Yerington (19-6) comes in as the No. 2 seed and Dayton (15-13) as the No. 3 seed. Yerington won both regular-season meetings, including a 54-50 verdict last Friday at home, a game in which Dayton rallied back from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to make it close at the end.
Brandee Smith and Letitia Talbot scored 20 points each to lead the Lions offensively. Smith shot 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, including four in the fourth quarter that gave the Lions 47-36 and 49-42 leads.
Amy Sceirine also came through with a back-breaking three-point play down the stretch. Sceirine converted a steal on the Dayton end into a layup, draw a foul and then added the free throw to give Yerington a 52-44 lead with 1:22 remaining to play. As it turned out, Sceirine's layup was the only field goal the Lions had in their 9-point fourth quarter.
"That steal was a big one. Then she goes down, gets the bucket and gets fouled," Edmunds said.
The Yerington coach added a tip of his hat to the Dust Devils and to coach Kathy Jones.
"I've got to give Dayton credit. They never gave up, they took us out of our transition game, and they came back on us," Edmunds said. "Kathy Jones always does a heck of a job."
Likewise, Jones found consolation in the Dust Devils' fourth-quarter comeback.
"We dug ourselves into a hole early, but the kids didn't quit," the Dayton coach said. "They kept pecking away and made Yerington play. We had some young kids step up and play, I was pleased about that."
For example, junior guard Cayla Reese scored 14 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out four assists. Also, freshman Rachel Hurt scored four of her eight points in the fourth quarter, plus she had six rebounds.
Jennifer Dillie scored 18 points to lead Dayton, with nine of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
"Jennifer is one heck of a player," Edmunds said of Dayton's 5-10 senior post player. "We do a lot of things defensively to try and frustrate her. We always identify where Jennifer is and we always have somebody right on her, but she always does a good job."