Don't make the mistake of assuming that the Yerington High School girls basketball team will be satisfied with a second-place finish behind reigning state-champion Mineral County (Hawthorne) in Division II this season.
With the Lions' crucial 55-51 win at Dayton on Friday night, Yerington moved within one game of the division-leading Serpents. Encouraged by their play against the Dust Devils, the Lions (4-1, 12-5) are actually looking forward to their game at Hawthorne (5-0, 17-1) next Friday.
"First place isn't settled yet," said Yerington coach Brett Edmunds. "We're not battling for second, third, or fourth - we're still going for first.
"We're right where we need to be. We're going to give it everything we can (against Hawthorne) and fight our hearts out."
While Hawthorne has Nevada-bound Ashlee Orndorff on its roster, the Lions have a star of their own in Letitia Talbot. In Edmunds' opinion, Talbot is one of the few players in Division II potentially capable of stopping Orndorff one-on-one defensively. Talbot is also excellent on the offensive end of the court, leading all scorers with 20 points on Friday.
"If we prepare for Hawthorne like we did for this (Dayton) game, we'll do fine," said Talbot when asked about Yerington's chance of moving into a tie with Hawthorne. "Our confidence level is up from this game, not just the starters, but the bench also. The team chemistry from this game was unreal."
Talbot had the hot hand in the first half for the Lions, scoring 15 of her 20 points in the half as Yerington was able to build a 30-20 halftime lead.
Yerington also received good outside shooting from Brandy Smith and Ami Sceirine, who combined for three 3-pointers in the half. In the end, the difference in the game proved to be the Lions' perimeter shooting, as Yerington finished with five 3-pointers compared to Dayton's none.
Dayton made its best run of the game early in the second half to cut the Lions lead to three, 33-30.
Just when it seemed the game's momentum had swung in the Dust Devils favor, though, Yerington went on an 8-0 run of its own to take an 11-point lead by the end of the third.
Yerington was able to maintain a comfortable 54-42 lead until, with just under two minutes remaining in the game, the Yerington bench was called for a technical foul. The timing of the technical couldn't have been worse, as the Lions had possession of the ball when the foul was called.
The technical seemed to give Dayton its second wind, as the Dust Devils mounted a furious comeback attempt in which it outscored Yerington 9-1 in the final moments of the game. But time ran out on the Dust Devils (9-10), who fell to 2-2 within the division.
Cayla Reese led Dayton with 18 points, most of which came from the outside.
If Yerington can't defeat Hawthorne next week, there's a good chance the Dust Devils and Lions will meet two more times this season; when Dayton travels to Yerington on Feb. 11 and in the Division II Tournament. The prospect of facing the Lions two more times didn't seem to faze Dayton's Jennifer Dillie, who had 12 points against the Lions.
"Skill-wise, I think the teams are equal," Dillie said. "We just have to play with more intensity and confidence. We've got to handle their outside play with more intensity."
Notes: Edmunds said a key to Yerington's win had been the solid defensive play of Kendall Castellani At least one junior college coach was scouting Talbot on Friday When asked if she was insulted when people referred to her as "the second best player in Division II (behind Orndorff)," Talbot said, "For a 5-foot-8, small-town girl, I take that very much as a compliment."