Valley High School junior Christian Franklin came out of the locker room, saw Pahrump Valley junior Grant Odegard in the corner of the gym and greeted him warmly after their basketball game Tuesday night.
The two also run cross-country, and they no doubt remembered their teams’ battles during the division, region and state championships during the fall season.
In their first meeting, Franklin crushed the field to win the individual Sunset League title while Odegard finished fourth, but the more balanced Trojans won the team title.
Their first meeting on the basketball court went the opposite way. Individually, Franklin scored just 3 points, all during the first quarter, while Odegard connected on four 3-pointers and totaled a game-high 13 points, but it was Franklin’s Vikings that came away with their first win of the season, 48-41 in the Sunset League opener for both teams.
Franklin might not have filled the stat sheet, but the 6-foot-2 forward was part of a brutal press that befuddled the Trojans most of the evening.
“That was the first zone press we’ve seen this year,” Pahrump Valley coach Dan Clift said. “We can’t in practice see that same type of pressure. I need to do a better job as a coach trying to prepare them for that. There’s nobody in this valley that can press us like that, not our own guys, not our JV guys. It’s hard. We need to slow down and we need to handle the pressure, but we get sped up and turn the ball over too much.”
The most frustrating part of Tuesday night’s loss for the Trojans was just how much of the game they spent leading. From the time Brayden Severt drove the lane to tie the game at 2-2 at the 5:40 mark of the first quarter until Ti’Mar Fullmer hit a 3-pointer with 3:26 left in the game for a 40-39 Valley lead, Pahrump Valley was ahead for all but two minutes when the game was tied.
Holding the lead for the bulk of the game and then losing is demoralizing enough, but the Vikings won the game despite Fullmer’s shot being their only field goal of the fourth quarter and one of only three they hit during the entire second half. But Pahrump Valley was in foul trouble for much of the game, and Valley took advantage of their many trips to the free-throw line. The Vikings hit 12 of 13 attempts during the fourth quarter and 24 of 31 for the game.
By contrast, the Trojans went to the line eight times, making three. It was too much to overcome.
“I told the guys after the game, ‘They won that game shooting free throws, however we lost that game turning the ball over and not handling the pressure,’ ” Clift said.
The Trojans were much better on the boards than in the open floor, and Severt and Chance Farnsworth rebounded well against the quick but not overly tall Vikings.
“Chance and Brayden do a great job,” Clift said. “Those kids can jump, and we’ve had some success with rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, but you’ve still got to put it back and score, and tonight we struggled with that a little bit.”
Numerous times the Trojans had two, three and even four looks at the basket without being able to convert, and eventually, the Vikings’ press began to wear on them. While Pahrump Valley led 27-24 at halftime, the Trojans managed just 7 points in each of the third and fourth quarters while the Vikings camped out on the free-throw line.
The biggest problem the Trojans had with the Vikings’ press was that it didn’t stop if they made it past halfcourt. Valley pressured Pahrump Valley’s ball-handlers consistently, and a lot of passes, especially bounce passes, found their way into the opposition’s hands.
“We can make good passes, but these kids from Valley tonight can make that look like a poor pass,” Clift said. “They’re so athletic, and they’re so fast.
“We’re standing to wait to get the ball, we’re standing to pass the ball. We have to move. We have to shift that zone press and get the ball to the middle, and we struggled with that tonight.”
Pahrump Valley (1-4, 0-1 Sunset) played Somerset Losee on Thursday night and will be back home tonight to face Moapa Valley. But already, Clift is thinking ahead to his team’s next crack at Valley (1-5, 1-0).
“At the end of the day, we get to see them again,” he said, referring to a Jan. 24 matchup in Las Vegas. “They’re in our league. That’s a team we can match up well against, and that’s a team we should beat. It’s my job to make sure we’re better prepared in a month to do that.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at email@example.com On Twitter:@PVTimesSports