HENDERSON – The No. 1 team in the land has the top ranking for a reason.
On Friday, the Mineral County Serpents – the Central-South regional champs – ran wild against North No. 2 Wells during the Division 1A state semifinal round at SLAM Academy, in Henderson.
Mineral County turned the game into a running clock in the third quarter and advanced to the state championship with a 66-23 domination.
Wells’ defense held Mineral County scoreless for three minutes, senior Zane Rodriguez giving the Leopards a 2-0 lead with 5:30 remaining in the first quarter.
The Serpents amassed eight points in the next two minutes, tying the game 2-2 and taking a 4-2 advantage on a jumper by senior David McFalls.
Mineral County turned up the full-court pressure, McFalls stealing and dishing to senior Antonio Dominguez for a layup on the break.
Senior Damien Montoya banked home a shot from the right side, and Rodriguez stemmed the momentum with a free throw for the Leopards.
The Serpents went back on the attack, forcing a timeout with 1:16 on the clock after a 9-0 run.
Dominguez drove the left baseline for a bucket, junior Seth Bozzi cleaned up the offensive glass for a put-back, the ball found McFalls for an open three on the left wing, and Montoya tallied another steal for bunny.
Montoya then capped an 11-0 run with a follow-up deuce, and Wells scored its second field goal on a floater in the middle by junior Angel Salazar.
After scoring the first bucket of the game, Wells was topped 19-3 and trailed 19-5 going to the second quarter.
Senior Jonathan Scott continued the Serpents’ domination on the backboards with a follow for a 21-5 lead.
On the other end, Rodriguez went Michael Jordan-esque with a wicked, smooth reverse layup.
A Wells miss led to an easy score in transition for Scott, Mineral County on top 23-7 with 5:45 remaining in the half.
The Leopards hit double digits with three from the left wing by sophomore Riley Stewart, answered by a triple from Mineral County senior Devon Davis.
Rodriguez made a steal and went to the cup for a layup, making the score 26-12.
Dominguez pushed the advantage to 15 with a free throw.
Another Wells throwaway led to a gimme for junior Treven Wachsmuth, and Dominguez added a deuce after a turnover by the Leopards.
Bozzi was set up for a point-blank look from a gorgeous find by McFalls, and the half closed with a dead-eye three from the right corner by Wachsmuth.
At the break, Hawthorne was up big at 36-12.
The Serpents kept the pedal down to start the third quarter, Montoya dropping a bank shot from the left side and McFalls notching consecutive scores – one on a drive down the middle and another from an outside jumper.
Wells took a timeout with 5:39 on the clock, trailing by 30 at 42-12.
Soriano grabbed a loose ball from a McFalls swat and hung his defender in the air for an And-1, but the deficit went back to 30 as Dominguez scored on the break.
Wachsmuth collected an offensive board and netted a floater in the lane, pushing the margin to 32 at 46-12.
Scott worked free across the lane and was found in the heart of the paint for a layup, earning another dish on the left wide for a bunny.
The game was turned into a running clock with 3:30 remaining in the third, Mineral County on top by 36 at 50-14.
McFalls nailed a baseline fall-away, opening a 52-12 lead, followed by a put-back by Salazar for the Leopards.
McFalls and Scott booked back-to-back buckets for the Serpents for a 40-point cushion.
Junior Alejandro Palacios made a steal and rolled to the rim for a layup for Mineral County, junior Matthew James hitting a midrange jumper from the left side for Wells.
After the third quarter, Wells trailed by 40 at 58-18.
Zane Rodriguez scored a hoop plus the harm to open the fourth after receiving a pass from Soriano, Mineral County answering on the other end.
Junior Ethan Nelms railed a triple from the left side, but the Serpents were issued a technical foul – Rodriguez making the score 63-22 at the line.
Junior Brent Battenfeld yanked down an offensive board and was fouled – hitting 1-for-2 at the stripe.
Nelms strung up his second triple of the frame just before the horn, Mineral County housing Wells by a final score of 66-23.
Rodriguez reached double figures and finished with 11 points for the Leopards.
Wells’ offense was finished off by four points by Salazar, three by Stewart and two apiece from Soriano and Stewart.
Congratulations to coach Joel Soriano and the Wells Leopards for their qualification to the Division 1A Nevada State Basketball Championships.
The Serpents advanced to the Division 1A state championship and will take on Spring Mountain at 8:10 p.m. Saturday, at Orleans Arena, in Las Vegas.