Last-minute gamble pays off in big way |

Last-minute gamble pays off in big way

I’m a Nevadan and gambling is in our DNA.

I don’t gamble much, however, but last weekend’s opportunity left me no choice. I had to do it. I would have more regret than not doing it last winter.

When the Lady Wave basketball team knocked off Virgin Valley and Lowry cruised in its state semifinal in Las Vegas, it set up a fourth meeting between the two schools with the ultimate prize — a state championship — at stake. It wasn’t just a trophy on the line for Fallon. It was a chance at making history — the school’s first NIAA-sanctioned state championship. It also didn’t hurt that Nevada was playing UNLV next door later that day.

As soon as Fallon won its game on Friday, I spent the lunch hour looking up same-day, roundtrip flights to Las Vegas, finding the best deal with Southwest. Expedia, Hotwire and Priceline failed me with tickets nearly doubling what Southwest had to offer. And those included multiple stops.

I made a deal with myself. If Lowry lost a close game or it came on top coupled with the Southwest ticket price not changing, then I would book it. Also factoring into the deal was whether I could snag a photo pass for the Nevada-UNLV game.

We had a plan in place for the state coverage regardless of the outcome, though. The Nevada Appeal’s Darrell Moody was going to be in Las Vegas to cover the college game and offered to assist with covering Fallon. John Dirickson, owner of Your Next Level Exposure, agreed to send us photos from Friday’s game against Virgin Valley and the championship, if Fallon advanced.

Lowry blew out Moapa Valley, and the ticket price never changed. Nevada’s sports information director couldn’t accommodate the last-minute request because the deadline was Tuesday. However, a quick email to UNLV’s sports information director came back with a favorable response: “No problem, will leave at team/tunnel entrance.”

The only person left to convince was my wife because this expenditure would be coming out of pocket.

She remembers the heartache of me not being able represent the LVN in Las Vegas last year when the wrestling team won its first state title. The girls regional championship just concluded that afternoon in Reno and after looking at the wrestling update, Fallon was on its way to a victory. The problem was the next flight out of Reno would cut it too close and there was the drive to Primm. Instead, I paid the subscription to watch the finals live on my computer, took notes and then called Trevor de Braga and spoke with him and his champions.

But my wife knows me as well as my father. She knew how important sports are not just in my life, but in all of our lives. It was a great, bucket-list opportunity to witness and report history. She wasn’t going to let me miss it and OK’d the purchase Friday night.

Enthralled with excitement, I couldn’t sleep and Saturday morning came swiftly, and with a blanket of snow. The drive in from the North Valleys was interesting because of the conditions and it involved a slight detour after the Spaghetti Bowl. But I made it to the airport and arrived at the terminal as the B group was being boarded. Another delay — de-icing the plane — pushed the arrival time by 20 minutes.

It’s been eight years since I’ve flown and boy, things have changed. Technology is wonderful with Southwest where you can watch live TV during the flight. This paid off on the return flight. When arriving in Las Vegas, you have to board a shuttle to the rental car garage, which is on the other side of the freeway.

By the time the rental was purchased and I drove away from the garage, I was 30 minutes away from tipoff at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, which is only a 10-minute drive from the car rental garage. This plan would have backfired if the championship game were played anywhere else.

Along with Moody, the RGJ’s Jim Krajewski and Humboldt Sun’s Tony Erquiaga represented Northern Nevada’s media at the game. No question, the LVN needed to be at this game to cover this special moment.

As time raced by during the championship and Fallon built a comfortable lead in the third quarter, Anne Smith’s squad was on the brink of history. The buzzer sounded as the bench raced to center court to celebrate with the rest of the team. Fallon was the state champion.

Capturing the emotions through interviews and writing, as well as photography, is what every sports journalist should dream of. The raw emotions, which included tears of joy, happiness and relief, were incredible to witness. Fallon had finally done it after finding redemption of last year’s two losses to end the season.

Watching Nevada’s historic victory over UNLV was an added bonus to an already exciting afternoon of basketball. But witnessing Fallon win its first-ever NIAA state championship was worth the plane ticket alone.

Thomas Ranson can be contacted at