It was the story of the Tortoise and the Hare in the Division III Southern League semifinal at Spring Valley High in Las Vegas last Friday. The Meadows, playing the part of the Hare, built a big 19-point lead. And Lincoln County, playing the part of the Tortoise, started out slow, almost caught up, and ended up losing a 58-55 squeaker to The Mustangs.
“That is us, we really make things interesting,” The Meadows coach Gary Hanig (himself a Lincoln graduate) said. “We turned the ball over way too many times in the third quarter and they (Lincoln County) kept fighting. No mistake about it, we beat a good club tonight.”
Lincoln County made just 6 of 26 shots (23.1 percent) in the first half, and trailed 38-19, just 90 seconds into the third quarter.
But behind the play of McClain O’Connor, the Lynx fought back hard in the second half and were making a run. O’Connor, held to nine points in the first half, sparked his team’s comeback in the second half.
Lincoln County coach Matt Cameron said. “We didn’t execute offensively in the first half. Made adjustments in the second half, and O’Connor took over. We changed our box press from 1-3-1 to a 2-1-2 and confused them enough to get us going. Then we started executing offensively, started moving the ball more for some easy buckets and they didn’t have an answer for us. Defensively, McClain (O’Connor) played great and frustrated them.”
O’Connor scored the final six points of the third quarter for Lincoln County with a three-point play and a 3-pointer as the Lynx pulled to within 46-42.
Poor free throw shooting by The Meadows kept Lincoln County close, and Derek Shumway’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 55-53 with 1:10 to play.
The Mustangs finally slammed the door thanks to free throws by Ethan Fridman and Jake Epstein.
Lincoln did get the ball again, Cameron said, but with only two second left, but had to go the length of the floor.
Memories of the miracle 75-foot shot with four seconds left by Ryan Rippetoe that beat The Meadows in the same semifinal game in 2013 might have gone through the minds of some Lynx fans, but it didn’t happen.
The Mustangs made just 5 of 13 foul shots (38.5 percent) in the final two minutes, and was 16 of 32 (50 percent) for the game.
Epstein led the Mustangs (17-7) with 21 points. Asheesh Chorpa added 12 points and Max Hisatake 10 for The Meadows.
O’Connor had 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to spearhead the Lincoln comeback. Shumway, who made just 1 of 8 attempts in the first half, finished with 14 points for Lincoln County (13-13).
“I think the kids reached their potential toward the end of the season,” Cameron said. “We could have won that last game, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m proud of the kids. They played their hearts out all season long and surprised a lot of people.”
Defending state champion Agassi Prep then routed The Meadows 68-28 the next night to win the championship. Agassi (24-0) plays Incline (20-5) and The Meadows (17-8) meets Yerington (24-4) in the state tournament this weekend. The Saturday finals are at the Orleans Arena.