With 9 seconds left on the clock, Logan Gavenda took an inbound pass from Grant Odegard, dribbled around Booker Wakefield and headed toward the basket. Virgin Valley’s Kris Leavitt, who had been a thorn in Pahrump Valley’s side all night, got in the way.
While one Bulldog defender on Gavenda’s right swatted aimlessly at the ball, Leavitt took the direct approach. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior went up just as the 6-3, 170-pound Gavenda did. The ball and Gavenda went to the floor, the latter looking toward an official with both arms outstretched, but no call was forthcoming. Virgin Valley picked up the ball, the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Bulldogs celebrated a 61-59 victory Friday night in Mesquite.
It was the only game the Bulldogs would win at their Bulldog Invitational, and it was the closest the Trojans would come to winning any of theirs.
“I think what we drew up there was if we didn’t get the ball to the corner we wanted to get it to the high post,” Pahrump Valley coach Dan Clift explained. “He went to the floor and went to the basket, and we got a good look. And like I tell the kids, they’re probably not going to make that call at the varsity level. We had that happen in Wendover, same exact thing, except that it was on this side and not on that side.”
Leavitt was an issue for the Trojans long before the final shot. He scored 12 points, 6 during the fourth quarter, but he was an effective rebounder — no surprise, given his size — and an effective passer — a major surprise, but Leavitt had a knack for distributing the ball from the high post.
“He’s athletic,” Clift said of Leavitt. “I watched him last night (during Virgin Valley’s 61-56 loss to Enterprise, Utah) and I knew right away that we were going to struggle matching up against him. Last night, he tried to shoot a lot of 3s, and tonight he was smarter.”
Gavenda also was a factor before the final shot, scoring 7 of his 15 points during the fourth quarter.
“Logan didn’t play up in Wendover, this is his fourth basketball game,” Clift said. “He played significant minutes tonight, and he’s going to help us. He had some health issues and missed a lot of practice.”
Gavenda’s strong fourth quarter was part of an 18-point period for the Trojans, who also scored 18 points during the first quarter. Otherwise, the two periods could not have been more different.
After getting blown out 74-22 by Sierra Vista in Thursday’s tournament opener — the Mountain Lions shot 73 percent from inside the 3-point arc and 80 percent from the line while compiling 20 assists to 9 turnovers — the Trojans came out on fire Friday.
After the Bulldogs scored the game’s first basket, Gavenda hit a 3-pointer from the corner, Odegard drilled a deep 3, and Koby Lindberg followed by banking a 3-pointer. A Virgin Valley timeout and two Bulldog free throws slowed the onslaught, but Odegard found Chris Briscoe for a layup and Odegard took a Caleb Sproul pass in for another bucket and a 13-4 lead.
A poor attempt at holding for a final shot instead turned into a Virgin Valley steal, and the putback pulled the Bulldogs to within 18-10. The 4-point swing, no big deal at the time, would prove pivotal.
The teams traded runs for much of the game. The 8-point lead the Trojans took into the second quarter was gone five minutes later, and it was the Bulldogs’ turn to surge ahead in the third after holding a 28-26 lead at the half. A 10-point run gave Virgin Valley a 41-31 lead midway through the period, but Odegard, Koby Lindberg, Gomez and Syblue Glisson each had a hand in 13-0 run, and a free throw gave Virgin Valley a 42-41 lead after three.
Clift was not surprised by his team’s ability to come from behind.
“We were down 10 and then we were right back in it,” Clift said. “I think there’s a disconnect. I never see the kids go, ‘Oh, crap, now we’re down 10 or 12.’ Against Vegas kids I see that a little bit, but tonight I thought they all thought we were fine. We’re still in this, we’re still playing hard, we’ve still got a chance.”
They were still in it, although they would not lead again. Gomez capped a quick 7-0 flurry with a putback that tied the game at 54-54 with 1:50 left. A Glisson putback tied the game again at 56-56 40 seconds later, and two Odegard free throws with 25 seconds left set up the final sequence.
Odegard led the Trojans with 20 points, while Glisson chipped in with 10.
“That was a good basketball game,” Clift said. “We’re getting better, and I tell these kids that. A lot of these kids need to step it up defensively, and I think I’ve been seeing that growth every game. In playing teams like Virgin Valley throughout our season, I would be really confident. When we get Vegas teams, we just need to survive.”
The Trojans (2-7) finished the tournament Saturday with a 67-44 loss to Moapa Valley. Odegard led the way with 16 points, while Sproul finished with 10.
Pahrump Valley is now off until the Vegas Invitational at Mountain View Christian, where the Trojans will open play Jan. 2.