And then there was one
LAS VEGAS — For the second straight year, Fallon’s girls basketball team is on the verge of the school’s first-ever state title.
“I don’t talk about that,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said after the Wave’s 52-40 win over Virgin Valley in a 3A semifinal game Friday morning at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
“We talk about the things that got us to where we are like boxing out and rebounding,” she added. “Today, I wasn’t very happy with our offense. I felt we never got into an offensive roll (rhythm), I think we can clean things up offensively.”
The Greenwave had three players in double figures. Leta Otuafi led the way with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Faith Cornmesser added 12 and Leilani Otuafi tallied 11.
“We have a pretty balanced offense,” Smith said. “We have three or four girls who can score when they want.”
Fallon put together a couple of good scoring surges in the opening half en route to a 28-19 advantage.
Fallon strung together 13 straight points after Virgin Valley scored the opening basket of the game, and after Virgin Valley closed to 19-16 the Greenwave went on a half-ending 10-2 run.
Leta Otuafi led the first surge with five straight points and cousin, Leilani, knocked down a 3-pointer to cap the surge.
Cornmesser led the second surge with back-to-back scores inside the lane, the second extended Fallon’s lead to 26-16 with 3:08 left. Leta Otuafi added a basket and Leilani tallied another and a free throw.
“I think I have two of the best post players (Leta Otuafi and Cornmesser),” Smith said. “Cornmesser did a phenomenal job. Leta had 10 rebounds. That was pretty impressive.”
Twelve of Fallon’s 29 first-half points were created off turnovers caused by Fallon’s pressure, trapping defense. Fallon forced 17 first-half turnovers.
“We worked on our press all week,” Cornmesser said.
“On film, (Brianna) Todd was the only one that was bringing the ball up,” Smith said. “I knew if we forced the other girls to handle the ball in pressure situations we could probably get turnovers. Our defense is one of the best parts of our game; full-court pressure and half-court pressure.”
One of the keys to the game was holding Todd down. The talented guard managed just eight points. Fallon used Kaitlyn Hunter, Zoey Swisher and Caitlyn Welch at various times.
“I think she (Todd) had one 3-pointer (in the first half),” Smith said. “She was a big scorer for them. Zoey is our hidden treasure. I told her to stay on Todd, and she did that. She did a pretty darn good job.”
Points are a bonus from Swisher, and the diminutive guard scored two buckets in the first 90 seconds of the second half, the second hoop giving Fallon a 35-18 lead with 6:31 left in the third.
Bernice Fiso, who led all scorers with 15 points, scored on back-to-back possessions to make it 35-22, but Fallon restored order with a 7-2 run to make it 42-24 with 1:42 left.
Fallon started getting a little sloppy in the fourth quarter, and turnovers allowed Virgin Valley to get back within 13 at 46-33 midway through the final period.
“We were pushing too hard,” Cornmesser said. “We were forcing things.”
So, the Lady Wave will play the winner of the Lowry-Moapa Valley game Saturday at 11 a.m.
Fallon knocked off Lowry in both meetings this year. It would seem easier to prepare for a league opponent than a team you’ve never played before, but Smith said that wasn’t the case.
“We know them, but they know us, too,” she said. “Moapa beat Virgin Valley (during the season), but lost in the regionals. Moapa Valley is a lot like Virgin Valley.”
“We have to box out and rebound. we can’t force the ball. We have to go out and do the things we did to get here.
If that happens, Fallon could very well be hoisting a championship trophy at about 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“Our goal was to come here and win state,” Cornmesser said. “Last year we lost our last two games of the season, and we were undefeated before that.”
That left a bad taste in Cornmesser’s mouth, and she will do everything she can to rectify that.