RENO — Things weren’t looking good, but nobody panicked.
They’ve been in this position before, most recently in the same tournament when they were fighting for the championship title.
After watching Division I powerhouse Reed jump to an 11-point, second-quarter lead, the Lady Wave basketball team buckled down and outscored the Sparks school by 18 points in the third frame to take a 59-47 victory to win the Elite Varsity Basketball Tournament at McQueen’s John J. Flynn Gymnasium on Wednesday.
“What a great tournament with all the upper schools and the competition,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said. “It was a good test to kind of challenge us and see what we’re capable of playing against. It’s the tiny little details. That’s what I tell them. The boxing out, the controlling the boards, moving to the ball: it’s those tiny little details that set them apart.”
The win marked the third time this week that Fallon knocked off a Division I school after handing Damonte Ranch and McQueen losses. Fallon, which competes in the Division I-A, ended the month with an unblemished record of 12-0, which includes two earlier wins over Division I schools. Wednesday’s win was also the first time Fallon defeated Reed in more than a decade when it competed in the old 4A.
Fallon, though, doesn’t have much time to reflect on the tournament win or perfect record as it travels to South Tahoe on Saturday to resume Division I-A play.
“We still have Lowry and we travel to Elko and Spring Creek,” Smith said. “I anticipate the competition will be as tough as we saw here.“
The Otuafi freshman duo of Leta and Leilani each scored 17 points to power the Lady Wave, with Leta doing her damage in the paint and Leilani shooting from the perimeter. She hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter to add fuel to Fallon’s second-half rally.
“I just wanted one girl to make an outside shot because I felt that if one girl could make that outside shot, it would build their confidence,” Smith said of Leilani Otuafi’s 3-point shooting.
Senior Megan McCormick scored 10 points, Caitlyn Welch added seven, including a 3, and Kaitlyn Hunter added four.
“They had a lot of pressure on us but we picked up the pace a little bit,” Welch said.
After the full-court press, which worked successfully during the tournament, broke down against Reed, Smith took the pressure off and allowed the defense to be set. Combined with switching defenders on the Raiders’ top perimeter shooter and relaxing the posts’ assignments, Fallon not only erased an 11-point deficit but also went on 9-0 and 7-0 runs in the third quarter that provided a 10-point lead (48-38) going into the final quarter.
“We told our outside that we weren’t getting enough shooting from the outside,” Smith said. “We needed to have our guards pick up on the outside and start shooting so we pulled the defense of our posts. They were really packing it in on our posts. We just kept trying to force it so we said we needed to shoot more. That opened things underneath.”
Taylor Johnson led all scorers with 24 points, with 16 coming in the first half. Her perimeter shooting was on display in the first half when she knocked down four 3-pointers but after Smith put Zoey Swisher on Johnson, the mission was simple.
“We put Zoey Swisher on (Johnson) and told her not to score,” Smith said. “She did score six points in the last two minutes. What a great 3-point shooter from way downtown. I can’t fault Zoey.”
Larsa Guzman scored eight points for Reed, Serene Townsell-Williams added six and Carlee Sireika had five.
Even though Raiders were able to beat Fallon’s full-court press, they couldn’t penetrate toward the basket much and when they were able, Fallon’s defense forced bad shots, leading to the fast break catching Reed off balance and out of sync.
“They just kept beating us on the full-court pressure and they transition so fast,” Smith said. “Our defense wouldn’t get situated and they just kept scoring. So we decided to take it off so our defense was set instead of having it in transition.”
Down by eight to open the third quarter, Fallon scored nine unanswered points to take a 32-31 lead three minutes into the quarter. Johnson’s two free throws put Reed back in front but Welch’s 3-pointer gave Fallon the lead for the final time. The trey sparked a 7-0 run that included a pair of putbacks from the Otuafi sisters.
Leilani Otuafi, though, knows there’s room for improvement even though Fallon is off to a hot start this season.
“We still need to improve on finishing our shots,” she said. “We need to slow it down more, too.”
Another 7-0 run gave Fallon its first double-digit lead of the game at 46-36 with a minute left in the quarter. Leta Otuafi posted inside for a bucket, Welch nailed two free throws and Leilani Otuafi buried a 3-pointer.
The Lady Wave’s biggest lead of the game neared the 20-point mark when Leilani Otuafi hit another 3-pointer in the corner for a 59-41 advantage at 2:23, but Johnson hit two NBA-range 3-pointers in the final two minutes to narrow the deficit.
“Defensively, I couldn’t have asked for better,” Smith said. “They did everything that we asked. Every change we asked, they made the change.”
Fallon jumped on Reed to begin the game but Reed opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run for an 11-point lead with 6:10 left. The Lady Wave scored the game’s next seven points with Leta Otuafi scoring five points in the paint and Hunter adding a pair of free throws. Johnson nailed a 3-pointer with a minute remaining but Leilani Otuafi’s layup cut the deficit to eight (31-23) going into halftime.