RENO – The Wells girls basketball team entered the Division 1A North regional tournament with a No. 4 seed from the Northern-East on a 3-5 record – two victories coming by forfeit and one actual win.
The Lady Leopards peaked at the right time, stringing together three-straight wins on their way to a Division 1A North regional title Saturday at North Valleys High School – beating Northern-West No. 1 and unbeaten Mineral County, two-time defending state champion Owyhee and defending regional champion Eureka.
Versus Mineral County
The Lady Serpents entered Thursday’s regional quarterfinal contest with a 16-0 record against 1A Northern-West opponents, but they quickly realized defenses in the Northern-East are different.
Wells allowed just three points in the first quarter, senior Keegan Laughlin notching eight points by herself in the frame for the Lady Leopards.
The Lady Leopards built a 14-3 lead after the first quarter.
“I think when they only scored three points in the first quarter and we scored 14 against their full-court press, they reset their expectations a little,” said Wells coach Enoch Dahl. “We put Amanda Murphy on their best player, and she held her to three points in the first half.”
As a team, Wells limited the Lady Serpents to 10 points as the break – the Lady Leopards tacking on another 11 in the second period for a 15-point lead by halftime.
Out of the locker room, Mineral County climbed back into the contest with a game-high 19 points in the third period – Wells finishing in single-digits with eight.
Leading scorer, freshman Perla Gutierrez – who averages 20 points per game – got loose in the third period for Mineral County, scoring seven points in the quarter.
Senior Julieanna Williams knocked down her second and third 3s in the frame, and senior Hailey Lahre added four points – slicing the Lady Serpents’ deficit from 15 to just four.
Entering the fourth, Wells led 33-29.
In the final frame, the Lady Leopards went back to work defensively – limiting Mineral County to single digits with nine points in the fourth – Wells increasing back to double digits with 14 in the period.
Wells knocked off No. 1 Mineral County by a final score of 47-38.
Laughlin rolled to a double-double with a game highs of 16 points and 20 rebounds for Wells.
Gutierrez led the Lady Serpents with 14 points – 11 coming in the second half – and she was joined in double figures by 11 points from Williams (three 3s) and 11 points by Lahre.
The trio combined to score 36 of Mineral County’s 38 points, only four Lady Serpents tallying points in the ballgame.
Murphy and senior Samantha Stumpf scored nine points apiece for Wells, and freshman Cameron Powers scored six of her eight points on two 3s.
WELLS – 14 – 11 – 8 – 14 – 47 Total
MINERAL COUNTY – 3 – 7 – 19 – 9 – 38 Total
The Lady Leopards advanced to the regional semifinal round and faced two-time defending state champion Owyhee on Friday, Wells owning the action from the opening jump.
“It was one month to the day since we broke our school record with nine 3s on the road at Battle Mountain and beat them 25 points on their home floor. I told the girls that if they gave me that type of an effort that we would win the game,” Dahl said.
Wells built a big halftime lead and cruised to a 67-51 victory over the Lady Braves.
The Lady Leopards hit on all cylinders offensively in the first and second periods, mounting 18 points in the first and 15 in the second.
Stumpf scored eight points and hit two 3s in the first quarter, Wells gaining four points each by Murphy and Laughlin in the frame – Laughlin and Stumpf adding four each in the second period.
Defensively, Wells shut Owyhee down to six points in the first quarter and eight in the second – senior Kaylani Smartt and sophomore Alejandra Dick putting in four apiece in the second period.
As was the case in the third period from the game before, Wells’ defense allowed the biggest offensive frame of the game.
Owyhee faced a 33-14 halftime deficit but hung up 21 points in the third quarter – junior Cree Raining Bird leading the charge with 10 points and two 3s in the frame, junior Macee McKinney-Cota adding six points.
Laughlin scored nine of Wells’ 15 points in the third quarter, and the Lady Leopards took a 48-35 lead into the fourth.
Wells kept its foot on the gas offensively in the fourth, mounting 19 points – Stumpf and Laughlin each dropping five points down the stretch.
Smartt did her best to pack Owyhee – scoring 11 of her team-high 21 points in the final eight minutes and leading the team with eight rebounds – but the Lady Braves dropped another three points and saw their quest for three-consecutive state championships fall by a final score of 67-51.
The Lady Leopards rode another monster double-double by Laughlin, leading all players with game highs of 22 points and 21 rebounds – Wells owning the glass by a final tally of 56 to 33.
Stumpf hit three 3s on her way to 17 points, leading the Lady Leopards with five assists.
Murphy scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds for Wells, and Raining Bird scored all 10 of her points in the third quarter for the Lady Braves – grabbing six rebounds.
McKinney-Cota and Dick each closed with nine points and seven boards for the Lady Braves.
WELLS – 18 – 15 – 15 – 19 – 67 Total
OWYHEE – 6 – 8 – 21 – 16 – 51 Total
“We took away a lot of Owyhee’s easy baskets and we didn’t put them on the line as much, and that was the difference,” Dahl said. “We made some changes to our press and flattened it out a little bit, and that really helped us keep them off the block area. Keegan was amazing; that girl came to rebound all weekend.”
The Lady Leopards finished the passage to a No. 1 seed for the state tournament and a regional championship on Saturday, earning a four-point victory over Eureka.
Wells split the season series against the Lady Vandals, winning the first meeting at home but losing the second matchup in double-overtime in Eureka.
Unlike Friday’s game against Owyhee, Wells did not come out gangbusters in the regional final.
The Lady Leopards were limited to eight points in the first quarter and tailed off to six in the second, Eureka scoring nine points in the first and eight in the second.
At halftime, the Lady Vandals led 17-14.
“I think we were pretty tired, playing our third game in three days and coming off a huge emotional win against the two-time defending champs. Eureka was beating us on the glass and outworking us,” Dahl said. “I told the girls at halftime that if they were content to play for second place, they could just go through the motions but that was not the reason we went there.”
Wells responded in the third quarter, scoring its game high of 14 points in the frame and limiting Eureka to its frame low of six points.
The Lady Leopards took a 28-23 into the fourth period.
In the final frame, the action was a back-and-forth struggle – playing out nearly evenly – Eureka outscoring Wells 15-13.
The Lady Leopards hung on for a 41-37 victory, but the difference came from big shots from an unsung hero.
“Sam Shamblin hit two huge threes in the fourth quarter on back-to-back possessions. The lead kept going down to one or two points and she came up big,” Dahl said. “She pulled up from deep and just knocked them down.”
Stumpf also buried big shots, leading Wells with 17 points and canning three triples.
Senior Teanna Green led the Lady Vandals with 10 points and added eight rebounds, junior Morgan Thomas scoring eight points and leading Eureka with nine boards.
Freshman Ilyhia Greely finished with eight points and seven rebounds for the Lady Vandals.
All of Shamblin’s six points came from distance in the final period, and Powers closed with five points for the Lady Leopards.
Laughlin was held in check with four points in the scoreboard, but she still snagged a game-high 11 boards – jerking down 52 rebounds and closing with averages of 14 points and 17.3 boards per game in the tournament.
WELLS – 8 – 6 – 14 – 13 – 41 Total
EUREKA – 9 – 8 – 6 – 15 – 37 Total
“A lot of people asked me if I was surprised that we won regionals and I’m not. I’ve seen the potential this team has and we finally put it all together,” Dahl said. “I hope we can put together two more games.”
The Lady Leopards enter the 1A state tournament with the North No. 1 seed and will face South No. 2 and defending state runner-up Round Mountain at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Eureka is the North No. 2 seed and will play South No. 1 Pahranagat Valley at 11 a.m. Friday at Lawlor Events Center.
Congratulations to Wells on its regional championship and to Eureka for qualifying for the state tournament for consecutive seasons, and best of luck to both squads in the upcoming semifinal ballgames – hopefully each earning a spot in the 11 a.m. state final on Saturday.