SPARKS - For the first half of Reno's matchup with Galena Friday at Spanish Springs High School, a person with an abacus wouldn't have had a hard time keeping score. And although neither team lit up the scoreboard the rest of the way, what they lacked in points, they made up for with an exciting finish.
The Reno Huskies withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Grizzlies to take a 41-39 victory in the semifinal round of the NIAA Northern 4A Regional Championships.
Reno, which has won its last 56 Sierra League contests and is now 27-3 overall, will meet defending regional and High Desert League champion Reed in today's finals, beginning at 4 p.m. at Spanish Springs High School.
The Huskies led 13-8 after one quarter but were held to only three second-quarter points as the teams went into the locker room tied up at 16-16.
Reno led 27-26 after three but pulled away with a 10-0 run in the fourth, holding the Grizzlies scoreless for 4 minutes, 45 seconds (including 12 seconds of the third).
But the tide turned in favor of the Grizzlies behind the play of senior Langley Iverson, whose hook with 3:27 to go began a 10-2 run by Galena, which made it 38-36 with 53 seconds to go.
Iverson finished with a game-high 15 points, including 10 in the fourth period.
"She's got to do that for us," said Galena coach Karen Friel, whose Grizzlies finished the season 20-9. "She's so athletic. She gets to the basket. She can do so many things for us. Sometimes if she doesn't score, we don't score."
That was pretty much the case because Hayley Jensen was the only other player besides Iverson to score in the fourth quarter for Galena. Jensen scored her only points in the game in the last period, connecting on a 3-pointer to make it 38-31 with 2:41 to go.
The game ultimately came down to free throws.
Reno's Stephanie Rovetti - who had a team-high nine points - put her team up 39-36 after connecting on one of her two shots from the charity stripe with 36 seconds remaining.
Raimy Novacek then fouled Iverson, who also converted one of her two free throws to close the gap to 39-37 with 28 seconds left.
Reno's Christina Gough got the rebound when Iverson missed the back end of her shots, but Lea Armuth stole the ball and Iverson drew a foul. She sank both shots to tie it 39-39 with 20 seconds to go in the game.
Jensen fouled Stephanie Rovetti in the backcourt and Rovetti - who went 3-of-5 from the stripe in the fourth quarter - hit both shots to put Reno up 41-39 with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Armuth inbounded to Mullins, but Mullins couldn't sink her shot on her drive to the hoop and Reno pulled out the victory.
"They are so hard to stop," Friel said. "They have so many weapons. I thought our defense - holding them to 41 points - played really well. To make that kind of comeback, I'm really proud of our kids. We just came up short."
"We had some opportunities. They fouled us, but we didn't convert our free throws until they tied it up," said third-year Reno coach Shane Foster, whose Huskies own four regional title in the 21st century and was the last Northern team to win a state championship (2000-01). "I give (the Grizzlies) all the credit in the world. They never say die. They kept coming and coming and coming. I have a lot of respect for those kids."
Reno also got eight points from Morgan Rovetti and six apiece from Stevi Cooper and Abby Boorman.
"The Rovettis are fantastic kids. They have a tremendous amount of energy," Foster said. "They're very quick. They've caused a lot of trouble for other guards over the year - not so much for Kern and Mullins. They handled the ball well and didn't turn it over."
Galena will look to rebuild next year as they graduate five seniors, including Iverson.
"I think we had a great season," Friel said. "For this team to win 20 games...to be honest with you, we had a poor summer. We battled and showed a lot of heart."
Now it's Reno and Reed in the championship game, which will pit two teams that like to go up and down the court at breakneck speed and play pressure defense.
"Reed is very athletic," Foster said. "We have to handle their pressure well and make sure we do a good job keeping them from getting second chances. They have three Division I players on their team (Danielle Peacon, Kayla Williams and Erica McKenzie). We haven't had any D-I players in the last five years. I think Erica McKenzie is by far the best player on the floor."
REED 53, SPANISH SPRINGS 37
The defending Northern 4A regional champion Raiders found themselves in a tight game going into the fourth quarter - they were up 35-30 - but between a cold-shooting period for Spanish Springs (they were 3-of-12 in the fourth) and some timely offense by Reed, they advanced to today's finals against Reno.
"We wanted to play our game - offensively and defensively, inside-out," said Raiders coach Sara Schopper. "On defense we wanted to get our hands up. It's a basic, simple game: Catch the ball, shoot the ball, put it in the hole."
The Raiders outscored Spanish Springs 18-7 in the deciding frame and improved to 21-5 on the season.
"We wanted to get them into a halfcourt game and not let them get into transition. They're a pretty good transition team," said seventh-year Cougars coach and former Reed standout Christine Eckles. "I thought we did pretty well keeping them in a halfcourt game. They score a lot of points. I thought we missed some open looks. In the fourth, their 1-3-1 (zone defense) slowed us down a little."
Reed had three players score in double figures, including former Carson Senator Peacon, who had a game-high 13 points and gave the Cougars fits in the paint on both ends of the floor.
"Danielle Peacon is the best post player in the north," Schopper said. "She's strong. She's a good leader out there. Defensively, she keeps her hands up; she's always bouncing on her feet. Her and Kayla (Williams) bang on the glass."
The 6-foot Peacon is the Raiders' leading scorer, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Reed senior Oceanna Johnson added 12 points and Williams 10.
The Cougars led 11-10 after one period and trailed 29-24 at the half before the two teams scored six points each in the third.
Ari James scored a team-high 12 points and junior Jordan Rogers pumped in 10 more for Spanish Springs, which finished the season 20-10.
"I'm very proud of what this team accomplished," Eckles said. "It was our first 20-win season. We made the playoffs and were able to win one (against Douglas). We can build on that. We return everyone except two (seniors Jaci Carslon and Shay Williams). We hope to get back here next year."