Darrell Moody: Despite loss, Pack women’s run impressive
Yes, Ill admit it, I was hoping for the Cinderella ending for the Nevada women’s basketball team.
Yes, I wanted Cinderella to go dancing.
I wanted the underdog Pack to make the NCAAs for the first time. It would be storybook. A new coach taking over a team with a bunch of players she didn’t know; didn’t recruit.
It was a great week for the Nevada women, and certainly if this week is any indication, the program is back on track with Amanda Levens at the helm. She took a team picked to finish 10th in the conference to within one game of the NCAAs. Pretty impressive.
“Just our expectations within the program in every area, academically, how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis, how we practice, how we prepare,” Levens said. “At first the team was, ‘What’s this all about?’ And now they really buy into it, they understand the importance, like everything is important that we do; sleeping, eating, all that stuff.
“I think we turned the corner and now when we bring in our new players next year, it’s not going to just be the coaching staff. We have all our returners saying you need to do that. Hopefully they’re saying it before the coaches are. As soon as they become more of a player-led team it’s going it to be a lot of fun.”
Outgoing seniors T Moe and Teige Zeller both said the foundation has been set.
“I think things will definitely look up from here,” said Moe. “I think we’re going to establish a winning program from now on. This little end run that we had is going to set the stage for the future.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Zeller said. “Really, I was lying in bed this morning just thinking about how awesome it would be to be able to say that we helped Amanda get a championship her first year here. But like T said, it’s going to be the start of every year getting to this — getting to even play in the championship and they will win it sometime. I know they will.”
It was a fun week, especially when you consider that Nevada wasn’t expected to last more than one game. They beat he No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. They won two overtime games.
“Our girls made amazing memories,” Levens said. “They were so excited and happy all week and just enjoying this. And so I think for us to put ourselves in a position to win a championship when we were picked 10th in the preseason, and we had newspaper articles saying we wouldn’t get better for three to five years, and I think our team used that to fuel them.
“They really believed in themselves and each other and our coaching staff and our system. You don’t make a run like this if you don’t believe. If you don’t come back to practice and the keep getting better. We had a tough stretch where we lost 6 in a row, they were all, except one, by single digits, and they came back and working. And they wanted to fix the things that were not allowing us to be successful.”
While I was disappointed to see Nevada lose, I was happy for Shalen Shaw, the former Reno High star, who played four years at Boise State.
Shaw is sort of like Cody Martin of the Wolf Pack. She does a lot of things; fills up the stat sheet in different categories.
Three titles in four years, and she had the honor of getting to climb the ladder and cut down her share of the net.
“It’s different going up there first,” Shaw said. “Previous years I’ve watched the seniors go up first and them cut it down. OK, I’m cool, I can do it next. This year was different because I went up there first. And that feeling was just kind of — I was in awe, almost. And then to have everybody cheer, it was really fun and I don’t really have a ton of words for it.”
Coach Gordy Presnell said Shaw has meant a great deal to his program.
“Shalen is just an outstanding kid, and unselfish,” he said after the title game. “She was in three championship games in high school, and won two of them. She came here and won three tournament championships and a regular season championship. But the thing that makes her great is her unselfishness and her ability.
“I get so frustrated at her for picking up fouls early. So we didn’t start her, and we shortened the game and made her play the last 30 minutes of the game rather than the first 10. She never griped about it one time, and should have been a starter. She’ll do anything. She’s played all five positions. And has really been a winner. She has always bought in. It’s a big loss because at our level you don’t get multidimensional players the caliber of her.”