RENO – The importance of the moment was certainly evident in the faces of Sierra Lutheran boys’ basketball Thursday night at Wooster High School.
The Falcons, who were participating in their first state tournament appearance in program history, fell to Pahranagat Valley (Alamo) 58-49 ending their season one game short of a trip to Lawlor Events Center for a potential state title.
Sierra Lutheran head coach Ben Walther said the message to the team postgame was to not be remiss about the overall accomplishments of the season.
“Just be proud of their season; proud of being one of four teams here,” said Walther. “Maintain that camaraderie and walk out of here proud of what they did.”
Panthers pull way in final minutes
Sierra Lutheran trailed Pahranagat Valley 40-33 early in the fourth quarter after an 11-2 run from the Panthers carried over from the end of the third quarter.
The Falcons snapped the run with a 6-0 run of their own after Dominic Azevedo hit two free throws and Makez Berger followed it up with a nifty up-and-under layup through contact.
Hunter Lamprecht added two more free throws to make it 40-39 Panthers with 6:04 left in regulation.
However, The Falcons couldn’t do much about Pahranagat Valley’s Ira Bowman, who ended his night with 25 points – 24 of which came in the second half.
Bowman drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Panthers a 45-41 lead and extended Pahranagat Valley’s lead to five, 48-43, after a floater in the lane following a pump fake that drew a Falcon defender off his feet.
Shawn Emm scored a putback basket for Sierra Lutheran to keep the Falcon deficit at five, but another mid-range jumper from Bowman made it 52-45 Panthers with just over a minute remaining.
Sierra Lutheran had a few quality opportunities right around the rim in the final minutes, but couldn’t get them to fall and in turn was forced to send the Panthers to the free throw line.
Preston Higbee added 14 more points for Pahranagat Valley.
“We knew they were their shooters,” said Walther. “In the second half there was a couple times where (Bowman) got it and we didn’t have anybody closing out. In the second half, he shot great.”
Emm led the Falcons’ scoring effort with 19 points while Hunter Lamprecht added 10.
As Sierra Lutheran tried to claw its way back into things, but foul trouble eventually caused a couple Falcons to foul out of the contest.
Saying goodbye to several seniors
The first three quarters were back-and-forth between the two squads vying for a state title shot.
Following the end result, Sierra Lutheran will be without five seniors next season in Connor Braz, Brayden Wilhelm, Teagan Berger, Lamprecht and Luke Schinzing.
“All five of those guys, they bring a different set of abilities,” said Walther. “All five of them were willing to do what was asked and enjoyed playing with each other. One of them stated at the end, they’re leaving a legacy.”
The legacy being referred to wasn’t always a sure thing.
The Falcons started the year 5-6 overall and didn’t quite have everyone synced together on the floor.
“I knew it was going to be tough. The chemistry wasn’t there yet,” said Walther, referring to the beginning of the season. “We weren’t really sure of our identity.”
After the Falcons returned from Christmas break everything seemed to start clicking.
Sitting at 5-6 prior to the break was as bad as the Falcons would be as Sierra Lutheran finished the year with a 15-2 record over its final 17 games with its only two losses coming both at the hands of Mineral County, who also qualified for the state tournament.
“They just looked like a different team. … We knew it was going to take a lot of effort,” said Walther. “Last weekend (during the regional tournament), they probably played some of the best team basketball we played all year.”
Sierra Lutheran caps their first state tournament berth in program history with an overall record of 20-9 on the year.
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