By Vern Hee
The Muckers went to Las Vegas with a need to shake off the disappointing loss to the Pahranagat Valley Panthers the week before.
They knew to win at state they had to have a winning attitude.
Deanna Vanpouke, lead scorer for the Muckers, commented on the Vandals’ ability to play as a team.
“You could tell by the way they played that this team had played together for a long time,” she said.
So the team knew they had an uphill battle, but they wanted a victory Friday afternoon against the Vandals, a team they had not beaten all year long, losing to them twice this year.
Most of the Muckers came from the state champion volleyball team and they wanted to go out with another championship.
The team was confident enough — Coach Ed Cobb even booked hotel rooms for the state finals on Saturday.
It was not to be. The Muckers lost 57-39. Nothing went right for them during the first half.
Down 17-9 in the first quarter, the Muckers did not have the answer to the Vandals’ full court press, which killed them with turnovers. In addition to the press, the Vandals were beating them to the boards and getting both offensive and defensive rebounds.
At the half, the Muckers were down 39-17.
Cobb said the Vandals were a good team that day.
“The Vandals just did not let us play our game. They moved the ball better than we did,” said Cobb.
The problem is the Muckers gave up too many points in the first half. A 22-point deficit was just too much to expect the team to make up in the second half. Tonopah had this problem with Alamo, and they came up three points short there too.
In the third quarter, the Lady Muckers tried mounting a come-back and out-scored the Vandals 10 points to five.
Ken Fujii, head Vandals coach, said afterward his team won the game in the first half. He believes his press caused too many problems for the Muckers offense in the first half. He thought Tonopah was able to make adjustments at the half. He said they even out-played his team in the second half, but it was too late.
“I told my team in the locker room at halftime that we can not relax. We had a good lead and we let them back in the game during the third quarter, but it was not enough and we held on,” said Fujii.
Fujii’s team took the momentum to the state finals and held on to beat Pahranagat Valley Panthers for the division IV girls state title, 48-30. This was his third attempt at trying to beat Coach Amy Huntsman and her Panthers.
In division IV boys, the Pahranagat Valley Panthers beat the Virginia City Muckers for their fourth straight state title, 48-45.
In Division 1A boys, the Desert Pines Jaguars beat the highly favored Clark Chargers, 59-57. The Jags overcame a 13-point deficit with 6:53 to play in the game.
In Division 1A girls, it was Faith Lutheran Crusaders, 49-40, against their Northern rival Spring Creek. It was the school’s first state championship.