It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
For the second year in a row, the Pahrump Valley girls basketball team was the top seed out of the Sunset League in the Class 3A Southern Region Tournament. And for the second year in a row, the Trojans came up short of making the state tournament because they picked a bad time to have a horrible game.
Actually, half of a horrible game. Last year, they played what coach Bob Hopkins called their worst game of the season in an opening-round loss to Chaparral. This year, they easily got out of the first round with a 47-26 win over Virgin Valley but played one of their worst offensive games of the season in a 29-24 overtime loss to Moapa Valley on Saturday at Del Sol Academy.
But they played one of their best defensive games of the season, and considering how good the Trojans’ defense usually is, that’s saying something. In fact, it is so difficult to adequately balance the amazing defense and the inept offense in one story, here are two separate versions of the same incident, with a third thrown in to appease some folks in the bleachers.
Version 1: Defense never rests
Pahrump Valley played terrific defense all season. They allowed 32.8 points per game, and holding opponents under 30 was routine. This game was no different.
Against a Moapa Valley team that defeated Democracy Prep — coincidentally the one team to beat the Trojans in league play — 74-44 four nights earlier in the first round, the Trojans allowed just 12 points through three quarters. The Pirates put up 37 shots to that point, making just five. It seemed as if they were so shocked to have an open shot that they couldn’t handle it, misfiring badly when they did get someone free.
Sixteen times, the Pirates fired from 3-point range. A minute into the fourth quarter, senior guard Emilie Barraza hit one. It was their only one of the game. Out of 16. From inside the arc, the Pirates hit 11 of 52 shots for 21 percent.
If you’re not familiar with basketball, that’s not good.
Kaitlyn Anderson, who scored 17 points in the win over Democracy Prep, managed just 9. Lainey Cornwall, who poured in 40 points in the win over Democracy Prep, was held to 10.
“Last time we played them triangle and two, but I thought we could handle them man-to-man, which we did,” Hopkins said. “She didn’t get 40 today.”
The Trojans held the Pirates to one field goal in the first quarter and again in the third. That should be enough to win pretty much every game. But …
Version 2: Offensive woes
Destroy the tapes. Burn the scorebook. Issue a gag order for everyone in attendance and let us never speak of this again.
It was that bad.
Both teams played good defense. No doubt that was a huge factor in the final score. But both teams also played offense as if each unit consisted of five players who never met before Saturday.
The Trojans are used to winning ugly. But this was too much ugly to overcome.
Pahrump Valley managed seven field goals. For the game. A game that lasted an extra four minutes because it was tied at the end of regulation. Seven field goals. That’s on 48 shots, including 0 for 9 from downtown.
Again, if you’re new to basketball, that’s not good.
But it gets worse. A lot of those missed shots were from inside of 5 feet, including several trips in which the offensive rebounding gave the Trojans second and third chances. More than once they put up an air ball from point-blank range.
Moreover, the Trojans committed a whopping 26 turnovers. Several passes soared high over the heads of their intended targets, and about a half-dozen times attempts to feed the ball inside didn’t quite work out.
And this was after a pretty good first quarter. Maybe not quite the 17-0 shutout they put up against Virgin Valley in the opener, but pretty good. Four players scored as the Trojans took a 9-2 lead after the opening eight minutes, and things looked good. Then they scored exactly 2 points between Kylie Stritenberger’s 5-footer at the 1:27 mark of the first quarter and Kate Daffer’s two free throws 49 seconds into the fourth.
But they did wake up in the fourth quarter. They scored 10 points in the period, including the final three to force the extra session. With the Trojans down 21-18, Daffer banked in a shot in the lane with 32 seconds left and Makayla Gent hit the second of two free throws with 13.2 seconds left to tie it.
Version 3: ‘We wuz robbed’
Complaining about officiating is a time-honored tradition. It’s a staple of pretty much every sport, especially when your team loses.
But keep in mind that at the high school level, almost every sport is in need of officials. There are not enough of them. And we need them. And they take a lot of crap they don’t deserve from know-it-alls in the bleachers.
The officiating was much closer in quality to the offenses than the defenses in this one. The moving screen apparently is a standard part of the Pirates’ offense, and you can’t blame them for doing it if they can get away with it, but they got away with it a lot. Routinely.
Some specific calls were major problems, especially in a game with so few made field goals. Each counts that much more.
So when an obvious carry is ignored on what turned into a Moapa Valley layup, it’s magnified by how few baskets the Pirates made. When Kate Daffer gets called for a foul on a clean block — a very clean block — in a one-point game and it turns into two free throws with 1:55 left in overtime, that’s a big deal.
Some of the calls did go the other way. A Pahrump Valley player basically ran down a Moapa Valley player under the basket on a play that resembled an SUV plowing into an elderly nun in a crosswalk, and that went uncalled. But that wouldn’t have been a shooting foul anyway, while hacks on inside shots would have been.
“One time we got four shots inside, got killed, then we go down there and it’s a touch foul and they’re at the line,” Hopkins said.
For the game, the Trojans shot 10 of 18 from the line while the Pirates were 6 of 12. Moapa Valley also missed the front end of a one-and-one twice in the final minute of regulation when the Pirates had chances to put away the game.
Either way, season’s over
In any event, it was a frustrating end to a season that saw the Trojans win 21 games and go 9-1 in the Sunset League for their second consecutive league championship after going 10 seasons without making the playoffs. Those days seem like a long time ago the way the Trojans have been playing the past two years, but the team that has won 40 games the past two seasons went five consecutive years without reaching 10 wins. And it’s worth remembering that.
“Four seniors, and they have a lot to be proud of,” Hopkins said of Savannah Fairbank, Samantha Runnion, Jackie Stobbe and Virginia Weir. “They’ve helped make the program a contender in the South.”
But the bulk of the scoring and rebounding will return.
“Of the 15 kids that came today, 11 are coming back,” Hopkins said. “We look forward to that. Like I told them in the locker room, you play as good a defense as any team I’ve ever had. Defending is just heart and playing with your guts, and we have that.
“Defensively, I can’t say enough about my kids. Offensively, we have to get better. We have to work on shooting and passing and taking care of the basketball.”
Daffer paced the Trojans with 8 points and 16 rebounds, while Stritenberger scored 6 points and Tayla Wombaker added 5.
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@PVTimesSports