Lake Mead Christian Academy seemed like the perfect opponent for the Pahrump Valley High School boys basketball team.
The Eagles are a 2A school, a nice break from Sunset League opponents. And the Trojans defeated them handily last year, outscoring the Eagles during every quarter on their way to a 59-36 thumping.
But the Pahrump Valley team that took the floor Friday night in Henderson was not the same one that threw a scare into Mojave on Tuesday night and scored 26 points during the fourth quarter Thursday night against Valley.
Without leading scorer Grant Odegard, fellow seniors Koby Lindberg and Caleb Sproul, junior Cameron Gabrylczyk and athletic sophomore Syblue Glisson, the rest of the Trojans seemed lost, and, combined with an opponent that came in 14-4, the result was a 68-48 defeat.
“I knew I was going to be shorthanded, and we go as Grant goes,” Pahrump Valley coach Dan Clift said. “He’s played in 19 games for us, and in game 20 we didn’t know how to play without him.”
What they did know how to do was foul, and what they didn’t know how to do was hit free throws. It would be far too simplistic to say the game was won and lost at the line, but a quick glance at the statistics shows how much it mattered.
The Trojans took 10 free throws during the first half and didn’t make any of them. Things were a little better after halftime, as they took 13 free throws and made two of them.
By contrast, the Trojans were fouling like crazy, committing 28 fouls during the 32-minute game. Five Pahrump Valley players finished the game with as many or more fouls as points. And the Eagles took advantage of that. After making just 4 of 15 free throws during the first quarter, they went 14 of 22 the rest of the way. It was a poor percentage overall, but it still meant an 18-2 edge in made free throws, accounting for 16 points in a game lost by 20.
An obvious culprit for the foul totals would be the number of inexperienced players thrust into key roles on defense.
“It’s a little bit of that,” Clift said. “I think the game was called differently tonight than what we see at Mojave or Valley. The speed is a little bit slower even though they had some good, athletic kids. What they did was move the ball really well on us, and we didn’t have a Grant to slow that down. We’re struggling, we’re chasing, we’re not closing out.”
The game was tight early, and a Chris Briscoe drive in the lane on the first possession of the second quarter pulled the Trojans to within 8-7. By the time the Trojans scored three more baskets, the Eagles had put 18 more points on the board and would take a 28-16 lead into halftime.
Briscoe was on fire during the third quarter, hitting five field goals, including two 3-pointers, during the period, but the Eagles turned up their offense as well. So after a three-point play by Logan Gavenda and a running bank and subsequent 3-pointer by Briscoe pulled Pahrump Valley to within 33-24, the home team went on a 17-5 run that put away the game.
Briscoe finished with four 3-pointers and 20 points, a career high and the fourth time he hit double figures in scoring in January.
The game did give Clift a chance to see how his returning players would perform together on a varsity stage.
“You see Andrew Avena, who’s probably going to be our point guard next year, have to do that tonight,” he said. “Everybody on the floor tonight except Jerrick (Sparkman) and Kasey Dilger, they’re all underclassmen. Maybe as the season goes on I need to have these kids playing together more.
“I expected something different tonight. I told those kids last night we have all the kids we need tomorrow to win against Lake Mead.”
The Eagles (15-5, 5-3 2A Southern) had four players in double figures.
“They’re having a great year,” Clift said. “Coach (Jeff) Newton does a great job, 27 years here. We beat them pretty well last year, and he probably expected a little different tonight, too.”
Valley 69, Pahrump Valley 56: Odegard scored 21 points and Avena and Gavenda added 12 apiece Thursday night in the Trojans’ Sunset League loss to the Vikings.
Valley shot 50 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from 3-point range, and 70 percent from the line to bury the Trojans early, taking a 39-20 halftime lead and leading 58-30 after three quarters. The Trojans scored 26 points during the fourth quarter.
Sparkman led the Trojans with 8 rebounds, while Odegard and Kasey Dilger each totaled 3 assists.
Somerset-Losee 79, Pahrump Valley 48: Odegard scored 21 points and Avena scored 10, but the Lions swept the season series from the Trojans with a win in a Sunset League game Monday night.
The Trojans (5-16, 1-8 Sunset) trailed just 18-14 after the first quarter, but the Lions (7-5, 5-4) went on a 22-4 run during the second quarter to take command. Four players scored in double figures for the Lions.
Pahrump Valley will be back in action at 6:30 p.m. tonight for a league game against Equipo Academy. The Trojans pounded the Yeti (0-8, 0-8) 54-6 on Jan. 7 in Las Vegas.