Yerington unable to handle Moapa Valley
RENO – There was no 3-point magic for the Yerington High School girls basketball this time.
Coming off a performance in which they set an all-time Nevada girls state tournament record with 10 three-point baskets on Thursday, the Lions cooled off and dropped a 38-32 verdict to Moapa Valley in the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Tournament semifinals Friday morning at Lawlor Event Center.
Kim Ortega scored 18 points and Moapa Valley (26-4) showed the defensive pressure that has limited opposing teams to 36.9 points per game this season, as the defending 3A state champion Pirates advanced to the final round.
Moapa Valley plays Mineral County (30-1) in the 3A championship game today at 4:40 p.m. at Lawlor.
Brandee Smith scored 14 points and Letitia Talbot 11 for Yerington (22-8), which was making its first state semifinal appearance since 1990 – when the Lions reigned as Class 2A champions.
“We had our chances,” Yerington coach Brett Edmunds said. “We just couldn’t convert the bunnies, the easy shots, in close. We’ve been converting those all year, but like I told the girls, the ball doesn’t always bounce your way. And today it didn’t.”
Moapa Valley is the defending 3A champion and has been a state tournament finalist in each of the last four years.
“We knew this would be a tough game,” coach Merrill Staheli said. “We knew they were a good, well-coached team. That No. 22 (Smith) is a great shooter.”
Smith hit three 3-pointers, two of which kept the Lions alive early in the fourth quarter.
The sophomore guard knocked down a trey from the left wing, assisted by Letitia Talbot, and then she hit another from the right corner off a feed from Amy Sceirine as Yerington cut a seven-point deficit to 31-28.
Moapa Valley answered right back when Kim Ortega took an inbounds pass from Jeri Lynn Swanson in the right corner and buried a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 34-28.
Yerington mounted one more threat when Kendall Castellani dumped in a putback, then Smith stole the ball and passed down the floor to Talbot for a layup. That cut Moapa Valley’s lead to 35-32 as Staheli called for a timeout with 2:20 showing on the clock.
“I told them, ‘This is a mental game now. This is where the player with smarts is going to win, you have to go out, play smart and do what you’ve been practicing for months,'” Staheli said.
The Lions were unable to penetrate Moapa Valley’s defense and didn’t score again.
“It’s kind of been our goal to get back here and have a chance to defend our title,” Staheli said.
Were the Pirates looking ahead to a possible championship game showdown against Mineral County?
“I’ve been asked that question so many times – ‘How are you going to do when you play Hawthorne?’ – but we’ve tried not to think about Hawthorne,” Staheli said. “This is a one-game season now, and we knew all the teams up here are pretty even. We knew we would have to play well just to get to Hawthorne.”
Meanwhile, the Lions close the book on a season in which they won 22 games and finished second in Division II.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these eight girls. They worked hard to get this far and I’m sure the community of Yerington is proud of them too,” Edmunds said.