The game had all of the drama and intensity a title game deserves. Unfortunately for Pahrump Valley’s girls basketball team, it also had Kaitlyn Anderson.
In a game noteworthy for brutal defense on both sides, Moapa Valley’s senior captain scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds to lead the Pirates to a wild 34-32 win over the Trojans on Saturday in the Class 3A Southern Region Tournament final at Pahrump Valley High School.
For three quarters, the Trojans found themselves in the unusual position of playing catch-up. The Pirates scored the game’s first basket, took a 4-2 lead and did not trail again until early in the fourth quarter.
And yet, there were the Trojans, dribbling time off the clock in the final minute, waiting for the inevitable foul from a desperate Moapa Valley team. And just that quickly, there were the Trojans, desperation now on their side, heaving a 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded.
For a game that had little in the way of ebbs and flows for three quarters, the dramatic reversals of fortune during the final minutes was a stunning turn, bringing out the best and worst of both teams.
The best for Pahrump Valley included Kate Daffer, the only Trojan in double figures with 14 points and a team-leading 8 rebounds, chasing down a runaway offensive rebound to set up Maddy Souza for a runner that tied the game at 30-30 with 92 seconds left.
The worst included a backcourt violation with 1:51 left on a possession that could have given the Trojans their biggest lead.
The best for Moapa Valley included Anderson nailing both ends of a clutch 1-and-1 to tie the game at 28-28 and Sydney Reese — the only freshman to play for either team — putting back a missed 3-pointer 30 seconds later to regain the lead for the visitors and encourage the vocal Pirates contingent to chant “She’s a freshman,” as they did pretty much any time Reese did anything.
The worst for Moapa Valley included a struggling Andalin Hillstead clanging 3-pointer after 3-pointer from the corner off off the rim in just her fourth game of the season without making a shot from downtown, as she finished 0 for 5.
The best for Pahrump Valley was Tayla Wombaker launching a 3-point shot that was in, out and back in again to give the Trojans a 1-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The best for Moapa Valley was Anderson nailing a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left to give the Pirates a 33-32 edge, and the worst for Pahrump Valley was throwing the ball away on the ensuing possession, one of four or five times the Trojans, perhaps excited by the chance for a quick score on a day when baskets were hard to come by, hurled the ball over the head of the intended target.
But the last time effectively ended the quest for a region title, as Anderson was fouled in the backcourt with 6 seconds left and made the first free throw for a 2-point lead. When the second shot missed, all that was left was the desperation heave.
While there are always multiple reasons why one team wins and another team loses, there also are a lot of games in which you can point to one critical statistic and say: “That’s why we lost.” Saturday was one such game.
As you would expect in a 2-point game, very little separated the teams. The Pirates made 11 field goals, the Trojans made 11 field goals. Three of the Pirates’ field goals were from 3-point range, three of the Trojans’ field goals were from 3-point range.
The Trojans had 1 more steal than the Pirates, while the Pirates had 2 fewer turnovers. There were 11 steals by the Trojans and 10 by the Pirates. The Trojans held a 29-25 edge in rebounding.
You can’t get much more even than that.
Many basketball fans, even those who weren’t at the slugfest Saturday, can guess what key statistic is left, the one that in the end sent one team to Reno as the region champion and the other to Reno as the region runner-up because, as in many other sports in Nevada, you don’t have to survive to advance.
The Pirates were called for 14 fouls during the game, while the Trojans were called for just 8. That translated into 15 free throws for the Trojans to 14 for the Pirates.
But while the Pirates made 9 free throws — including an 8-of-11 effort by Anderson — the Trojans made just 7, twice missing the front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities with a 2-point lead in the closing 1:07.
“You don’t make free throws, you don’t win,” Trojans coach Bob Hopkins was heard to say after the game. As usual, he’s right. Even shooting just 60 percent from the line would have sent the game into overtime, anything better and the Trojans would have had their first region championship since 2008.
That was a bitter pill to swallow after fighting for so long just to take a lead, then being in a position to ice the game with less than a minute left.
The loss snapped an 18-game winning streak for Pahrump Valley (30-3), which has now lost four consecutive games to Moapa Valley (22-6), including 29-24 in overtime in last year’s regional semifinals. It was also the first home loss of the year for the Trojans, who went 16-1 this season in Pahrump and last lost at home Jan. 11, 2019 to Boulder City.
The Trojans could get another crack at the Pirates on Friday if each wins in the semifinals Thursday at the 3A State Tournament in Reno.
Class 3A Basketball Championships
Thursday at Reno High School
Truckee vs. Moapa Valley, 3:30 p.m.
Pahrump Valley vs. Fernley, 6:50 p.m.
Boulder City vs. Churchill County, 5:10 p.m.
Elko vs Del Sol, 8:30 p.m.
Friday at Lawlor Events Center, UNR
Girls final, noon
Boys final, 1:50 p.m.