ELKO – The Wells girls basketball team marched from a No. 4 seed to a regional championship in the 1A North tournament last week, now entering the 1A state tournament with a No. 1 seed attached to its name.
The Lady Leopards went on a remarkable run – knocking off Northern-West No. 1 and unbeaten Mineral County, dismantling two-time defending state champion Owyhee and undoing Eureka’s bid for back-to-back regional crowns in the 1A North championship.
Wells will look to keep its momentum rolling Friday afternoon in the 1A state semifinal round, taking on South No. 2 and defending state runner-up Round Mountain.
The Lady Leopards have already played the Lady Knights this season, the matchup coming clear back in the first tournament.
On Dec. 1, during the Wells Rural Electric Classic, the Lady Leopards blew out the Lady Knights by 30 points in a 56-26 contest.
Now, Wells must show it has the ability to duplicate the result away from home on a neutral floor.
In the first meeting, the Lady Leopards placed three players in double digits – led by 18 points from freshman Cameron Powers.
The Sam and Sammy show was on display from distance – seniors Samantha Shamblin and Samantha Stumpf each splashing three 3s – Shamblin closing with 13 points and Stumpf finishing with 11.
Senior post Alyssa Hanks packed Round Mountain in the middle – scoring 16 points and grabbing a game-high nine rebounds – but she gained just 10 points of support from the remainder of the Lady Knights.
Wells’ defense was the key to the game, pressing Round Mountain’s guards and coming away with 23 steals – Shamblin and Stumpf each coming away with eight thefts.
To combat Hanks in the post, Wells will utilize the length and athleticism of senior Keegan Laughlin – who averaged 14 points and 17.3 rebounds last week during the regional tournament.
Laughlin put together two 20-20-plus performances in Wells’ three regional contests.
Wells coach Enoch Dahl has seen the heights his team is capable of reaching in various contests throughout the season, despite suffering a number of close losses in league play.
“We beat Mojave (South No. 1 in the 3A) by 13 points, and we beat Virgin Valley (3A) by 20 points,” Dahl said. “We beat Battle Mountain (2A North No. 2) both times we played them and beat them by 25 at their place, and we won by 17 at Pahranagat Valley (1A South No. 1).”
Although the Lady Leopards mounted several sizeable victories over some of the better girls basketball teams in the state, including those from higher divisions – Wells lost five of six contests in league play during the season, four of the losses coming by eight points or less.
Wells lost the lead in the fourth quarter in many of those games, but the Lady Leopards flipped the track record in the regional tournament and made plays in crunch time – something Dahl hopes will continue.
“We have talked about being smart in certain situations. We know we have to keep our best players out of foul trouble, and we have to execute and make shots when things get tight,” Dahl said. “We really played well in the regional tournament and I hope we continue that at state. We have to win two more games.”
The Lady Leopards will look for their first state championship since 1989 – when Dahl’s sister Marianne aided Wells to the mountain top – taking on Round Mountain in the 1A state semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
The winner will advance to the 1A state championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.