The Lady Muckers will be fighting for the Division IV Nevada State Championship tournament this weekend in Reno. Although making the state tourney for the second time in a row is big, the Muckers want to win it.
Tonopah knows that they will have to find a way to defeat the Eureka Vandals, the number one seed from the North. This is the team that took them out of state last year. Tonopah played this team four times during the regular season in non-conference play and has not figured a way to beat them yet. Eureka beat them each time (76-22 on December 20th, 61-17 on January 25th, 59-36 on February 15th and 54-29 last Friday), but Muckers Coach Russel Olin believes his team has been improving and fighting to close the gap to defeat the Vandals.
Olin was crystal clear about how they are going to face their upcoming challenge.
“We will go to Reno to play hard and show people we belong in the state tournament,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what has happened in previous games. Let’s get ahead in the game, instead of playing catch up all of the time.”
The Muckers will be fighting against a complete team that has a lot of depth. Nonetheless, senior Ashley Gray has the recipe for success.
“We have to be on our best game from start to finish and can’t give up,” she said.
Last week, the team defeated both Round Mountain (38-24) and Lund (36-26) showing its superiority on the court. Gray led her team in those victories with some outstanding stats. She scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Knights and played her heart out against Lund last Friday by scoring 15 out of 36 points for the Muckers.
The Tonopah girls downed Round Mountain four times during the current season, but last Wednesday they showed more forcefulness than ever. They were in command of the score during the whole game, playing relentlessly under the hoops. “Round Mtn.’s strength is their inside game with Morgan Manley and Shilo Amos. They played great defense on them. Otero and Gray rebounded well, grabbing 21 between the two of them. Maddi North did a great job of controlling the tempo of the game,” Olin said.
The Lund game gave the Muckers the ticket to the state. The girls knew the importance of this game, and wanted to extend their season. Olin told the girls before the game that they had to want it more and play their game. According to the coach, his Tonopah girls did a better job of passing and breaking Lund’s press this time around.
“The girls were more aggressive on defense, and they did a great job of making Lund take harder shots,” Olin said. “The team showed that it could rebound from a heartbreaking loss.”
Before focusing on Eureka, The Lady Muckers (12-9) faced their toughest opponent of the season, Pahranagat Valley (23-4), in the league final at Sunrise Mountain on Saturday. Going to state as the number one seed from the South was at stake, but Olin’s team could do little to stop the Panthers’ offense, which took a 17-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Their press was tough, but it was their ability to hit the outside shot that gave them a lot of opportunity to set their press up,” Olin explained.
The Panthers forced 25 turnovers of the Muckers, who ended up losing by a score of 29-54.
“Against Alamo the girls played hard, but it showed we are still inconsistent in our play. We need to make our short shots and break their press more consistently if we want to beat them,” Olin said.
After losing against Pahranagat Valley, the Lady Muckers will go to state as the number two seed from the South and will play Eureka on Friday at 6:20 p.m. in Wooster. The Panthers will face Pyramid Lake on Friday at 3 p.m. The winners of each game will confront each other on Saturday at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.