RENO -- The Yerington High School girls basketball team started out well enough at the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Tournament on Wednesday afternoon. But then the Lions fell into a trap. Virgin Valley's halfcourt trap press, that is, turned out to be a killer as the Bulldogs from Mesquite held Yerington scoreless over a nine-minute span bridging the second and third quarters and rallied from 15 points down to secure a 52-48 victory at Lawlor Events Center.
Mindy Stuart scored 26 points, nine of which came during a pivotal third quarter that helped Virgin Valley (19-9) advance to the 3A championship game against Lowry today at 3:20 p.m. at Lawlor.
Brandee Smith also scored 26 points, including five 3-pointers, for Yerington to hold up her end of a dual between two of the 3A division's marquee guards. Smith scored 16 in the opening 13 minutes, capped by a 3-pointer off an assist from Gillette Sam that gave the Lions a 27-12 lead with 3:12 remaining in the second quarter.
That's when Virgin Valley coach Gary Neva called for a timeout and adjusted his 1-2-2 defense.
"We've kind of lived and died with our defense all year," Neva said. "We moved it (the trap) a little to try and keep them off balance and it seemed to help. The main thing, I think we just decided to get some of our intensity back."
The Lions didn't score again from the field until the fourth quarter.
"That halfcourt trap bothered us big-time," Yerington coach Rod Rundle said. "It took us out of everything we do on offense. We knew they would use it and we had worked on what we needed to do. It just didn't develop for us."
Virgin Valley cut the deficit to 27-20 at halftime and then began the third quarter by scoring 13 unanswered points. Stuart buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key off an assist from Brittany Cook to tie the score, then Cook's putback with 5:08 showing on the clock put the Bulldogs on top 29-27. They never trailed again.
Even though Yerington shot 0-for-9 from the field in the third quarter and scored five points -- all on Misty Baker free throws -- the Lions still only trailed 35-32.
The Lions saw their offensive problems continued into the fourth quarter, turning the ball over on six straight possessions as Virgin Valley extended its lead to 45-35 with 3:00 left to play.
Yerington scrapped back. Stephanie Sciarani hit a 3-pointer and Smith hit another 3 to make it 52-48 at the end.
"They're tough," Neva said of the Lions. "That No. 10 (Smith) is a player."
Baker finished with 10 points and eight rebounds for the Lions, while Sam contributed five assists.
Jenna Price scored 12 points for Virgin Valley.
"It was a good team effort," Neva said. "Mindy is capable of having games like this. What made the difference for us was when her teammates stepped up and knocked some shots down. We're better off when everyone is involved."
All in all, this turned out to be a successful season for the Lions, who finished tied for second with an 11-3 record during the Northern 3A regular season and third at the regional tournament.
"We had a good year," Rundle said. "We played tough today, you just have to give them (Virgin Valley) credit. Like Larry Bird used to say, basketball is a game of runs, you just have to hope yours is better than the other team's. Today, their run was just a little better than ours."
Virgin Valley 52, Yerington 48
Yerington 10 17 5 16 -- 48
Virgin Valley 9 11 15 17 -- 52
Yerington ( - ): Smith 8 5-5 26, Sciarani 1 0-0 3, G. Sam 1 0-0 2, Townsend 1 1-2 3, McKinney 1 0-0 2, Baker 2 6-8 10, H. Sam 1 0-0 2, Totals 15 12-15 48.
Virgin Valley (19-9): Price 5 2-2 12, Pulsipher 1 0-0 2, Cook 2 0-0 4, Martinsen 2 1-6 5, Klug 0 1-2 1, Stuart 11 3-5 26, Totals 22 7-15 52.
3-point goals: Yerington 6 (Smith 5, Sciarani 1); Virgin Valley 1 (Stuart 1). Team fouls: Yerington 13, Virgin Valley 13. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.