ELKO – Sydney Connors and Alyssa Kuskie tied the Elko girls basketball team Saturday, 48-48.
Entering the regular season finale at Centennial Gymnasium, the Lady Indians needed a 10-point victory over Lowry in order to earn the No. 3 seed of the 3A North regional tournament.
For half of the first quarter, Elko appeared up to the task.
Lowry’s Connors and Kuskie scored 48 of the Lady Buckaroos’ first 61 points, ending all hopes of Elko avoiding a potential semifinal matchup opposite defending state champion Fallon.
The Lady Buckaroos responded after a slow start and cruised to a 63-48 victory.
Despite jumping passing lanes on the wings early on, Lowry could not quite come away with turnovers but Elko kept forcing the ill-advised passes, never recognizing backdoor opportunities.
The Lady Indians opened a 4-0 lead on buckets by senior Lauryn Drake from senior Gabe Rowley and a bank shot from the left side by senior Sariah Pulley.
Lowry found the board on a bank by senior Kepa Bengochea, but Elko senior Lexi Baum scored from the right baseline on a feed from Pulley.
The Lady Bucks took a timeout with 5:19 on the clock, the Lady Indians on top 6-2.
Elko grabbed an 8-2 lead on an offensive rebound and follow by Drake, but junior Julisa Garcia knocked down a long-two for Lowry.
Pulley splashed a three from an assist by Drake for an 11-4 advantage, but Elko left junior Rebecca Kuskie open for a three from the left wing to close the period.
The Lady Indians led 11-7 after the first.
The second period was all Lowry, the Elko defense committing breakdowns like a high-mileage car.
Lowry opened the quarter with a 15-0 run in less than four minutes of game time – all points coming from Connors and Alyssa Kuskie.
Connors scored the first five of the frame, nailing a circus reverse along the baseline and sticking a three on a pass from Bengochea.
Kuskie used simple toughness and willed her way to a three-point play after being fouled, and Connors racked up four in a row – opening a 19-11 lead with an underhanded runner and a pair of free throws.
Kuskie splashed her first three of the contest, and Elko called a timeout with 4:06 remaining in the half – reeling at 22-11.
Elko’s first points of the period came more than four minutes into the frame, Baum stopping the bleeding with a strong finish from the left side.
The Lady Indians forgot about the most important player on the floor – not Connors, not Kuskie – the one with the ball in her hands.
Nobody picked up dribble penetration, and junior Hailey Fernandez could not believe her fortune with a wide-open drive down the lane.
Junior Alexis Elquist scored on a heads-up ball reversal from Baum, but Connors added four points from the line toward the end of the period.
Off the bench, junior Brenna Hendrix provided a spark for the Lady Indians – connecting on a jumper and making a free throw – and Elquist closed the half with a pair of free throws.
At the break, Elko saw its four-point advantage after the first quarter turn into an eight-point deficit by halftime.
Lowry led 28-20 going into third period.
Halftime adjustments to stop or at least contain Connors and Kuskie were not effective.
Connors opened the period with a three, followed by a wide-open triple by Kuskie from the left wing.
Kuskie made a filthy drive around the defense along the left baseline and scored from the right block, and Connors capped a 9-0 run with a free throw – Elko’s hopes of a 10-point win turning toward trying to avoid a blowout loss.
Rowley scored Elko’s first points of the second half with a tough layup on a pass from Baum, who added a free throw.
Kuskie pump-faked and stepped in for a pull-up jumper, Hendrix answering with two free throws for Elko.
Baum made a tough drive along the baseline, drew contact and finished with the foul for the Lady Indians – trimming the lead back to eight at 37-29.
Lowry went into its stall offense and nearly ate a minute from the clock, Kuskie making the tactic pay off with a jumper.
Elko committed a foul on a three-point shot by Connors to close the quarter, recognizing player and position too late and closing recklessly.
She made two attempts from the stripe, Lowry opening a 43-27 lead going into the fourth period.
Kuskie pulled the trigger on a three from the right wing to start the final frame, buckets.
Baum scored from the left block for Elko, but the Lady Indians somehow lost track of Kuskie on the left wing – another three, buckets.
Her fourth three of the game opened a 20-point lead at 49-29.
Hendrix grabbed an offensive rebound for a put-back, but Lowry sophomore Sierra Masterjuan found an easy deuce as Kuskie drew the defense and made a pass in the post.
Elko scored the next four points, two from Rowley at the stripe and a long deuce by Pulley with a foot on the line on a pass from Drake.
Kuskie created another easy score for junior Rachel Garrison.
The Lady Indians finally made their run in the middle of the frame.
Baum knocked down a pair of freebies, Pulley hit a three from the right corner, Drake scored an And-1 on the second chance of her own miss and Pulley raced ahead of the pack and scored on the break from an assist by Rowley.
Elko cut the lead to 11 at 55-44 with three minutes remaining, but the Lady Indians had no answers for Connors or Kuskie.
Connors completed a three-point from the line, beating her defender off the dribble.
Kuskie made two free throws and Connors added three from the stripe – the last two coming off a rebound of her missed freebie.
The duo combined for 48 of Lowry’s first 61 points, opening a 61-44 lead.
Drake buried a long two and Rowley scored Elko’s final two points from the line, but the Lady Indians fell by a final score of 63-48.
Connors led all scorers with 25 points and hit two 3s – sinking 13-for-15 from the stripe – and Kuskie closed with 23 points, burying four triples.
Connors grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds from her guard position and closed with a double-double, while Kuskie led Lowry with five assists and three steals.
Pulley led Elko with 12 points and three steals and splashed two 3s, while Baum closed with a double-double on 11 points and a team-high 10 rebounds – also swatting a game-best two shots and adding two steals.
Drake finished with eight points, Hendrix scored seven off the bench and Rowley added six points – leading the Lady Indians with a game-high six assists.
LOWRY – 7 – 21 – 15 – 20 – 63 Total
ELKO – 11 – 9 – 7 – 21 – 48 Total
The Lady Indians finished the regular season with a 10-6 record in league play, entering the Division 3A North regional tournament with a No. 5 seed.
Lowry improved to 12-4 in the 3A North and locked up a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
No. 3 Spring Creek will open the regional tournament against No. 6 Truckee at 3 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Gymnasium – the winner playing Lowry in the semifinal round at 3 p.m. Friday – Elko playing No. 4 Fernley at 6:20 p.m. Thursday, the winner advancing to the semifinal for a dreaded date with No. 1 Fallon with a trip to state on the line.