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Berenice Aboite

Wells junior Berenice Aboite (4) shoots over Owyhee sophomore Kaliyah Smartt (14) on Saturday in Wells as Owyhee senior Kaylani Smartt (20) looks on. Aboite tied for the team-high with 11 points, but Kaylani Smartt scored the biggest two of her game-high 20 points in the closing seconds. The Lady Braves escaped with a 55-53 victory. Owyhee will play Smith Valley at 4:40 p.m. Thursday art Wooster High School, Wells facing Mineral County at 6:20 p.m. Thursday at North Valleys High School in Reno during the quarterfinal round of the Division 1A North regional tournament.

WELLS – Close ballgames have been the issue for the Wells girls basketball team in league play of the Division 1A Northern-East.

The Lady Leopards fell at home by two points Saturday to two-time defending state champion Owyhee, the Lady Braves beating Wells for the second time on the season by a final score of 55-53 with a late bucket.

Owyhee protected its home floor on Jan. 19, narrowly edging Wells by three points in a 50-47 contest – sweeping the season series by a grand total of five points.

The first quarter produced a dead-even heat Saturday, each team mounting 11 points.

The Lady Braves dominated the action in the second period – limiting the Lady Leopards to single digits with nine points – doubling up Wells with 18 points of their own.

At halftime, Owyhee led 29-20.

Wells outscored the Lady Braves 17-16 in the most offensive-minded frame of the contest – the clubs combining for 33 points.

Entering the fourth quarter, Owyhee held an eight-point lead of 45-37.

The Lady Leopards came to life in the final frame, eliminating the deficit in a matter of three and half minutes.

Owyhee’s advantage reached 10 points before Wells went on a 12-0 run, taking a two-point lead.

The back-and-forth struggle began and lasted the remainder of the contest.

On Owyhee’s final possession with 21 seconds remaining, the Lady Braves got the ball to senior Kaylani Smartt on the inbound pass and nobody else touched the ball.

She earned a screen from junior Macee McKinney-Cota and took advantage of a defensive switch – driving right, reversing left, sealing her defender off with her body and finishing with her left hand.

Smartt scored the game-winning bucket with less than 10 seconds remaining, breaking a 53-all gridlock.

Wells head coach Enoch Dahl took a timeout with seven seconds on the clock and drew up a play.

The Lady Leopards went the length of the floor, finding junior Berenice Aboite in the middle of the backcourt.

She drove to midcourt and made a dime pass to the right block, finding a teammate for a wide-open, point-blank bunny – the shot left short off the glass.

Owyhee junior Cree Raining Bird grabbed the defensive board, and the Lady Braves came away with a 55-53 victory.

Smartt scored a game-high 20 points, none bigger than her final two in the closing seconds – finishing 7-for-14 from the floor – closing with a monster double-double with a game-high 15 rebounds, leading the Lady Braves with four assists and also blocking a shot.

McKinney-Cota poured in 19 points for the Lady Braves on a blistering 8-for-14 from the field.

Three Lady Leopards finished in double digits, Aboite and senior Amanda Murphy tying for the team-high with 11 points apiece.

Senior Samantha Stumpf closed with 10 points, leading Wells with four steals and a block.

Senior Keegan Laughlin nearly accomplished a double-double with nine points and a team-best 10 rebounds.

Sophomore Jackie Berumen scored seven points for the Lady Leopards, and senior Samantha Shamblin dished a team-high four assists and added three takeaways.

Owyhee sophomore Alejandra Dick scored six points and led the team with three steals, Raining Bird also scoring six points for the Lady Braves.

The difference in the contest came down to shooting.

The Lady Braves were efficient in their attempts, only chucking up 49 but sinking 22 for a 45-percent clip.

Wells launched 70 shots but only cashed 20 for a 29-percent mark from the floor, closing 4-for-17 from three – Murphy and Stumpf making two triples each.

“We missed a lot of layups and great looks. I want to get up 70 shots, but we have to be more efficient to score points,” Dahl said. “That one was a heartbreaker. We had them gassed with our pressure. Owyhee had nothing left if the game would have gone to overtime, but we wasted our chance with the blown layup at the end.”

OWYHEE – 11 – 18 – 16 – 10 – 55 Total

WELLS – 11 – 9 – 17 – 16 – 53 Total

Regional tournament

The Lady Braves closed the season with a 5-3 record in league play, earning the No. 2 seed of the Division 1A Northern-East and will face Northern-West No. 3 Smith Valley (8-4) at 4:40 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the 1A North regional tournament at Wooster High School in Reno.

Wells fell to 3-5 in the swing game – four its five losses in league play coming by eight points or less, taking three Ls by four points or fewer – the Lady Leopards finishing with the No. 4 seed of the 1A Northern-East.

The Lady Leopards will take on Northern-West No. 1 and unbeaten Mineral County (16-0) in the quarterfinal round at 6:20 p.m. Friday at North Valleys High in Reno.

If Owyhee and Wells can both notch victories, the teams would meet in the regional semifinal for a trip to state at 6:20 p.m. Friday at North Valleys High School.


Sports editor and reporter

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