The No. 1 ranked Pahranagat Valley High School girls basketball team trailed Round Mountain 18-10 early in the second quarter of Saturday’s Class 1A Southern League championship game at Basic High in Henderson.
Then the Panthers put on full-court pressure and turned the game around.
Pahranagat roared to life behind guards Morgan Harris and Karley Whipple who helped force a flurry of turnovers that led the Panthers to a 56-47 victory and the championship.
Both teams advance to the state tournament today and Saturday at the Lawlor Events Center at UNR.
It is the 14th regional tournament title for Pahranagat (21-3) since 2001. It is also the 22nd consecutive year the Lady Panthers have appeared in the state tournament. They have won it 13 times.
It will be the fourth consecutive appearance at state for Round Mountain.
Against Round Mountain, Harris, who led the Panthers with 21 points, 10 steals and seven rebounds, said her team simply improved their play as the game wore on.
“We worked better as a team,” she said. “We had good communication and reversed the ball and just kept it going with good passes. We just worked harder and put out more effort. We just wanted it more.”
Behind by eight in the second quarter, the girls ratcheted up the press and fired off a 10-0 run, with Whipple nabbing three steals to help spark the rally. Her free throws gave the Panthers their first lead 20-18 with 3:21 left in the first half.
Whipple finished with 13 points and eight steals.
Pahranagat was 9-of-14 at the foul line. Round Mountain was 15-of-21, with Alyssa Hanks connecting on 13-of-16.
With only a halftime lead of 24-22, the Lady Panthers outscored the Knights 19-13 in the third period, finding that their pressing defense was disruptive enough that they were able to push the lead to 38-30 after a pair of free throws again by Whipple with 1:53 left in the period.
“We work really hard on that press,” Harris said. “That’s where we get all of our steals and points from. We definitely stepped it up and played better defense.”
Pahranagat’s lead grew to double digits in the fourth quarter, as Harris hit a jumper that fashioned a 10-point spread 45-35. Still, the girls were never completely able to pull away from the Knights, as Hanks scored 11 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to keep Round Mountain (16-5) in contention.
Harris and Whipple scored all of the Panthers’ baskets in the fourth quarter.
Pahranagat Valley coach Amy Huntsman noted, “We have really quick guards this year. So we just play to our strengths. I don’t think that was our best four-quarter game either But it was a fantastic win for us, and I’m so proud of the girls.”
Tia Sample added 10 points for Round Mountain. She ignited their fast start in the first quarter, connecting on three 3-pointers to help build Round Mountain’s 16-6 lead.
In the semifinal game on Friday, Morgan Harris had 14 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block in the Panthers 66-36 win over Word of Life.
Word of Life got to within eight after Taliyah Wilson banked in 3-pointers in the second quarter, but the Panthers stretched the lead back to 16 and never looked back.
Madalyn Taylor added 14 points and five rebounds for Pahranagat, and Lacey Steele added 10 points.
In the Northern regional the top two teams from the west and east both lost in the semifinals and Wells, the No. 4 seed out of the east, ended up winning the championship.
The Leopards scored a 41-36 win over Eureka in the finals. The Vandals had pulled off the shocker of the tournament on Friday, edging top ranked McDermitt and state scoring leader Precious Masters, 70-67 in double overtime.
At state today, Pahranagat Valley plays Eureka (16-9) at 11 a.m. and Wells (18-11) plays Round Mountain (16-5).
Wells split their games with both Eureka and Pahranagat Valley this season.
Ken Maxwell plans to air all of the Pahranagat girls games on the internet, audio only, at www.lctsys.com. Scroll down to Pahranagat Valley High School.
The games are also being carried live on the NFHS Network on the NIAA website www.NIAA.com.