Nevada women win tournament title
RENO – Senior Amber Young isn’t one to mince words.
“We talk about building a tradition here, and I think we took a step in the right direction tonight,” Young said after Nevada won the John Ascuaga Nugget Classic title by knocking off Big 12 powerhouse Colorado 69-59 Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center.
The win gave Nevada a 2-0 record, and it was the first time since the 1983-84 season under Chuck Ayers that Nevada has started the season with back-to-back wins. The last time Nevada won a tournament title was 2001-02 season when it won the Alaska tournament.
“It feels awesome,” said point guard Traci Graham, who threw down 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. “I’m really speechless. I can’t think of words. I want to keep this going.”
No doubt. Considering the Wolf Pack only won three games all of last year, wins are to be savored.
“I’m really proud of this team,” coach Kim Gervasoni said. “I love this team and I know there isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for me. We’ve been through a lot.”
Gervasoni was referring to the death of her husband, Mike, the team’s assistant coach. The team also lost starter Jocelyn Mancebo to a brain tumor, and it also lost two new players to season-ending knee injuries.
This is a team that will use last year’s 3-26 record as an inspiration. The Wolf Pack are better this year and the back-to-back wins will no doubt open some eyes around the Western Athletic Conference.
“It comes down to how hard we work in practice,” Young said. “The hard work we did in the off-season. We were in (some) close games last year. We’ve learned to put them away.”
Nobody works harder than Young, one of the team’s two seniors. The MVP was well deserved, according to Gervasoni. Young scored 18 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and dished out nine assists in the tournament.
“Everybody contributed,” Gervasoni said. “Amber gives us so many intangibles that you don’t see on a stat sheet. She does little things and she’s our defensive stopper. She’s the glue to the team.”
Nevada, which shot 54 percent in the second half, trailed 34-30 with 18:07 left to play, but went on a 20-6 run over the next six minutes to grab a 52-40 advantage.
Talisha Anderson, who led the team with 16 points, started the rally with a three-point play. Jessica Preslar (11 points, 9 rebounds) followed with a layup after a Colorado turnover and Meghan McGuire (10 points) completed a 7-0 run with a bucket. Veronica Johns-Richardson ended the drought with a runner in the lane, but Nevada scored the next nine points, including five by Graham, to make it 46-36.
Whitney Law connected from the left baseline to shave the deficit to eight, but Anderson knocked down a three ball to give the Wolf Pack a 12-point edge.
“We were aggressive,” Gervasoni said. “When that happens, things will go in your favor.”
Colorado cut the lead to 59-54, and the Wolf Pack started to go cold from the field, and also got a little impatient with the ball.
“It’s a Catch 22,” Gervasoni said. “I don’t want them to play scared. Maybe we could have had better shot selection. They have confidence they can knock them down. We weren’t shooting after just one pass out there. If they have an open look, I want them to shoot. It’s a balance.”
Fortunately, Colorado was just as cold offensively for the next few minutes. Nevada went on a little 6-2 run to take a 65-59 lead with 1:44 left, and the Lady Buffs couldn’t get any closer.
LOYOLA 67, FULLERTON 58
Twin sisters Bianca and Rachael Ziemann combined for 27 second-half points to lead the Lions (1-1) to a consolation triumph over the Titans (0-2).
Rachael Ziemann scored all 16 of her points in the final 20 minutes and Bianca Ziemann scored 10 of her 14 in that span. The duo led a 13-2 run that wiped out Fullerton’s 43-42 lead. Jacquelyn Woods and all-tourney selection Jevay Grooms added eight points apiece.
Amber Pruitt, an all-tourney selection led Fullerton with 15 points and six rebounds and Dayana Frias scored 12 points.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281.