The Otuafi cousins prevented a catastrophic disaster from occurring.
After watching an improved and quick Fernley team jump on the two-time defending state champs – and lead by as many as 13 – seniors Leta and Leilani Otuafi powered the Lady Wave basketball team in the second half to escape with a 63-51 win on Saturday at the Elmo Dericco Gymnasium.
“The second quarter, we were still just not ready for the game,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said. “Clearly, in the first quarter, we were still in the locker room.”
Fallon improved to 9-0 in the 3A Northern while Fernley dropped to 5-4 and sits 1/2 game behind Truckee for fourth with the second half of the league season beginning this week. Fallon hosts South Tahoe on Tuesday before traveling to Truckee (Thursday) and North Valleys (Saturday).
Leta Otuafi, who was hit in the eye on a loose rebound in the first half, posted a game-high 31 points, including 19 in the second half, and shot 77 percent from the floor while picking up six rebounds. Leilani Otuafi scored 12 of her 16 points in the second half and had 11 rebounds. Senior Kenna Hamlin and sophomore Madi Whitaker each had six points.
“She went out when she got hit in the eye. That was like poking a sleeping bear. That fired her up,” Smith said. “She was really on fire after that.”
Junior Jaiden Sullivan tortured the Greenwave defense all game to lead with 19, including five 3-pointers, and junior Katelyn Bunyard added 14 and freshman Willow Jacobson had six.
“Jaiden Sullivan had a phenomenal game,” Smith said. “She shot the ball so well. We knew who was hurting us. She just shot right over the top of them. Lani was put on Sullivan and she shot right over the top of Lani. We had to do a better job of rebounding. We just stood and watched. We were spectators at our own game. We had to clean up the boards on the defensive end.”
A switch on offense helped get Fallon back on track. Smith moved Leilani Otuafi to the post and kept her quickest players – Hamlin, Whitaker and senior Alexis Jarrett – on the floor with Leta Otuafi.
“Lani and Leta were underneath and rebounded better because they were right there,” Smith said. “When they would rebound the ball, it would start our offensive transition quicker.”
Sullivan’s long, NBA-range 3-pointer at the 1:32 mark was the last time Fernley would lead as Fallon went on a 13-0 run.
Leilani Otuafi’s save to Leta Otuafi underneath the basket put Fallon up for the first time, 41-39, with 37 seconds left and Leilani Otuafi swished a long jumper 7 seconds before the buzzer.
Leta Otuafi swung around to her left in the paint to put Fallon up 47-39 and after Bunyard and junior Celeste Condie each missed a layup, Leilani Otuafi took advantage on the fast break. Her basket at 5:37 gave Fallon a 10-point advantage and a three-point play capped off Fallon’s 13-0 run.
Fallon’s quickness from Leilani Otuafi and Hamlin helped create turnovers, allowing Fallon to take the lead and go up by double digits. Otuafi had four steals and three deflections, and Hamlin had three steals and four deflections.
Jacobson’s two free throws ended Fernley’s drought at 4:24. Her next pair of made free throws cut the deficit to single digits (50-41) with 4:24 left in the game, and it would be the last time for the Vaqueros being down by single digits.
Fernley jumped to a quick start, pinning Fallon in the corner for all of the first half.
Sullivan ignited the spark in the first quarter, scoring half of the team’s points as Fernley took a 16-8 advantage in the second quarter. Sullivan, who buried a pair of 3’s in the first quarter, added another in the second. Her layup at the 5:22 mark gave Fernley a 20-8 lead and her third 3 of the game had Fallon facing its biggest deficit of the game (23-10) with less than four minutes left in the half.
Fallon, though, crawled back.
Leta Otuafi scored Fallon’s next two buckets and Whitaker’s tip-in followed by a long 2 in the corner cut the deficit to 25-18 with 2:11 left. Both Otuafis scored in the final minute before Condie’s long jumper gave Fernley a 29-22 lead at the break.
Fallon 58, Sparks 8
The Lady Wave tuned up its offensive game Friday with an all-around effort from both their starters and reserves.
Fallon defeated Sparks, 58-8, in a Northern 3A game at the Elmo Dericco Gynasium.
The Greenwave’s depth was too much for the Railroaders as coach Smith cleared the bench early and kept rotating players into the game.
“We came into the game to work on some things we’ll need for the upcoming week,” Smith said. It was a great opportunity for the eight-nine-10 players to get on the floor and work on some things. They really worked on defense. The second team needs to practice on it, and well need them to go in and do the job.”
Although Fallon raced out to leads of 23-4 after the first quarter and 42-8 at halftime, Smith directed her offense to work the ball more inside in the second half, and she kept her substitutes in longer. Because Fallon led by more than 35 points, the teams played to a running clock. Fallon outscored Sparks 16-0 in the third quarter and neither team scored a point in the final period.
Leilani Otuafi’s two quick baskets at the beginning of the game ignited a 19-0 run before the Railroaders scored their first basket on a 10-foot jumper from Caroline Aguilar, who had four total points.
Fallon’s defense caused Sparks to turn over the ball numerous time in the first quarter, allowing the Greenwave offense to score off the mistakes. Chandler McAlexander, who led all scorers in the game with 13 points, spun for a reverse layup and also had a free throw. Alexis Jarrett moved to the outside and launched a 3-point shot from the right corner after driving the inside for two baskets. Mary Aguirre had the second basket for Sparks, a layup off a steal near the end of the quarter.
Emily Wright and McAlexander each scored four points in the second quarter, and Leilani Otuafi zeroed in on the basket for a 3-pointer and also drove for a layup.
Aisha Sharron, who played her first game on the varsity after coming up from junior varsity team, scored a basket in each of the first and second quarters and with another basket in the third, she had six points in her varsity debut.
Smith said Karleee Hitchcock has been ill.
“Aisha came up and did not back down and worked hard on defense,” she said. “Defensively, she’s right there, (and) on offensive, she’s a little behind, but she’ll catch on.”
McAlexander and Jarrett combined for 10 points in the third quarter for Fallon. McAlexander worked the inside for her baskets, and Jarrett drove the middle for a shot and also connected on a 15-foot set shot.
“Chandler had a great game, she rebounded well and is confident,” Smith said.
Jarrett and Lani Otuafi each scored 11 points, and Leta Otuafi added eight. Wright had four points, and Mckenzee Moretto and Madison Whitaker chipped in with two points each. Hamlin had a free throw in the first quarter.
Steve Ranson contributed to this story.