Thomas Ranson: More than X’s and O’s: Lady Wave has bigger problems
The Lady Wave is not going to win another girls basketball championship this season.
During its 57th-straight league win on Saturday over Fernley, problems were exposed that simply changing a bunch of X’s and O’s on the chalkboard will not fix. The Vaqueros jumped off to a hot start and led for about two-thirds of the rivalry game before the Otuafi cousins and Kenna Hamlin took control to prevent a catastrophic upset. But during that time, the frustration and body language of several players was obvious.
It was bad.
It was embarrassing.
It was not how a two-time state championship team should behave.
Tantrums quickly followed displeased calls. Heads dropped after missed and uncontested shots. A player almost caused the team a technical. And in the last couple of weeks, teams are beginning to expose an uncharacteristic weakness of a team that has prided itself on playing team-first basketball.
“Our worst enemy is us,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said. “Individuals who don’t want to come together as a team. That’s exactly right. Whether they can overcome that, I don’t know.”
After Lowry gave Fallon a tough run in the first half, the Lady Wave buckled down, went to business and pulled it together for another double-digit win. Fernley, though, jumped on Fallon quickly and led by double-digits for two quarters of the game thanks to its quickness on the floor and clutch perimeter shooting.
The target on Fallon’s back is at its largest since winning that first state title two winters ago.
“I knew Fernley was going to be tough,” Smith said. “I’ve been warning them about Jaiden Sullivan for weeks now. I don’t know if they aren’t just listening or take me seriously. It’s hard to say. I just don’t know. It’s frustrating.”
The emotions stood out on Saturday. Fallon was rattled and needed senior leadership to intervene and right the ship, which it did with Leilani and Leta Otuafi, and Hamlin spurring a 13-0 third-quarter run to take the lead for the first time in the game.
Fallon will not win another state title if the behavior witnessed against Fernley pops up again. And it could this week with three games, including a road affair in Truckee where the Wolverines edged the Vaqueros last week. Selfishness is a plague with undesirable consequences, and Fallon is on that path.
Is it a sense of entitlement? Do players feel that because Fallon’s won two state titles, they don’t need to work as hard? It’s nonsense.
Take it from one of the best basketball players in the nation.
Senior preseason All-American Caleb Martin texted his assistant coach before Nevada’s game against San Jose State, asking to be removed from the starting lineup because he was playing poorly and it was unfair to the team that he start. Coming from a guy playing for team that’s ranked in the top 10 in the country and who should be a lock in the NBA draft, this subtle request resonated louder than 10,000 fans cheering on the Pack at Lawlor that night.
And this Lady Wave team must take note or it will continue on its course of destruction, missing a third state championship. Or worse, Fallon could miss the state tournament altogether, completing one of the worst collapses in Nevada high school sports history. Fallon has bigger problems than trying to defend Sullivan from the perimeter or Lowry’s Sydney Connors from driving to the hoop.
“It’s an interesting dynamic in one we’ve not had to worry about for a few years,” Smith said. “(Selfishness) will be their demise.”
How does this team want to be remembered? Can Fallon correct this fatal course in time or is it too late? What will it take for Smith’s group of talented basketball stars to realize that collectively, everyone must buy in to the team-first philosophy that drove the last two state championship teams?
History is in the making this season again for the Lady Wave. But which side of history remains a question that can only be answered by unselfishness, both on and off the court.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.