It wasn’t all that long ago when Tayla Wombaker was wondering if she would ever see playing time for the Pahrump Valley High School girls basketball team.
“In the beginning of the season, I was like, oh my gosh, I’m never going to play, how am I going to get better?” she said, a few minutes after scoring 22 points to lead the Trojans to a 43-37 victory over Mojave that clinched a second consecutive Sunset League title for Pahrump Valley on Wednesday night in North Las Vegas. “Coach (Bob) Hopkins has brought me from an average kind of player to a better player, a point guard, a girl that controls the court, controls everything.”
Wombaker’s scoring equaled sophomore forward Kate Daffer’s output Monday night in a victory over Western, and the young inside-outside combination has been doing much of the offensive work for the Trojans of late.
“On Monday, Daffer, a sophomore, had 22 points, and tonight Tayla, a freshman had 22, so the future looks bright for us,” Hopkins said.
“I can pass to her and I trust her, and I trust her to get my rebound if I’m not having that good shooting day,” Wombaker said of Daffer. “I love sharing the court with her and how we can work together, and the whole team, too. That defense that Makayla Gent plays has helped me get the ball down the floor.”
Perhaps the best part about the game for Wombaker is that she scored from all over. She hit four 3-pointers, but also was able to drive effectively despite being just 5 feet, 3 inches tall.
“I’ve always been a driver,” she said. “I used to struggle a lot with shooting, so I always was the driver, or I was the passer, or I was the drive-dish. I got so used to it, so that’s how I am now.”
But as always with the Trojans (20-12, 9-1 Sunset), this game was largely about defense, especially after Alecia Kelly torched them for 17 points during the first half for Mojave (13-7, 8-2).
“In the second half, Makayla and Maddie stepped up and played really good defense against that Kelly girl, who was killing us in the first half,” Hopkins said. Kelly was held scoreless until the final minute of the second half, when she hit two meaningless free throws to finish with 19 points.
That was the major factor in the game not being as close as the score indicated. The Trojans built leads of 33-22 in the third and 41-30 in the fourth because they combined solid defense with decent shooting.
“The second half the entire team played great defense,” Hopkins said. “Tayla played good defense all night, Jackie (Stobbe) played good defense all night, and the posts did a great job,. Their post didn’t hurt us much, and when we did get beat we always had somebody inside to help.
“We shot poorly against Western on Monday, so (Tuesday) night we spent a lot of time shooting and it paid off for us tonight. We shot a lot of free throws and worked on 3-point shots and penetrating to the hole and shooting it.”
While the win clinched a second consecutive league title, Hopkins hopes what happens next will not be a repeat of last season.
”I told the girls we got the number-one seed again, and we remember the heartache we had a year ago because I think we looked past Chaparral last year,” he said. “We’ll get Sunrise or Virgin in our first-round game, and that league over there is pretty evenly matched. They’ve been beating up on each other all year long, so we just have to be ready to play.
“When we play like we’re capable of playing we can beat anybody, but then we also can play like we’re capable of playing and anybody can beat us. The one game we lost we didn’t play defense like we have all year. Against Democracy Prep, it showed. We can’t give up 52 points. We’re not going to beat people when that happens.
“We’ve actually been better on the road than we have at home for whatever reason. But we’re glad to get a first-round game again at home, and hopefully we’ll get off on the right foot this year.”
Mojave 79, Pahrump Valley 46: Brayden Severt and Chance Farnsworth scored 14 points apiece, but the Trojans fell into a 26-2 hole after one quarter and lost their season finale.
Chris Jackson had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Rattlers (19-7, 8-2 Sunset).
Grant Odegard added 10 points for Pahrump Valley (6-19, 1-9), which trailed 42-15 at the half.
Class 3A Southern Region playoffs
Tuesday, Feb. 19
Del Sol or Western at Boulder City or Moapa Valley
Sunrise Mountain or Virgin Valley at Mojave
Sunrise Mountain or Virgin Valley at Pahrump Valley
Democracy Prep at Moapa Valley or Boulder City
Thursday, Feb. 21
Semifinals at Del Sol
Saturday, Feb. 23
Championship at Del Sol, 4 p.m.