RENO, Nev. — The clock just did not tick fast enough to allow the Lakers to escape with an upset win against Yerington in their Northern 2A playoff opener Thursday.
The fifth-seeded North Tahoe girls took it to the fourth-seeded Lions early, knocking down shots from all over the court and generally out-hustling Yerington to jump out to a double-digit lead that held through much of the first half.
Slowly but surely, however, the Lions (14-13) carved away at the Laker lead in the third quarter, then took it over for good early in the fourth en route to a 48-39 win.
“We just weren't making good decisions, and they out-scrapped us in the second half,” said a frustrated North Tahoe head coach Rick Buhler, who also lamented his team's lack of rebounding after the half. “That was the difference in the game.”
Everything flowed smoothly for the Lakers (8-14) early. After swapping leads four times in the opening minutes, the Lakers went on a 12-1 run — scoring from inside and out, creating steals, hoarding rebounds, and generally looking crisp and confident in every part of their game — to take a 17-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
North Tahoe received contributions from nearly everyone. Forwards Samantha Jeffers and Taylor Briggs converted points in the post, junior point guard Liz Buhler buried two three-pointers in the quarter and senior guard Irene Rojas, who wound up with a game-high 15 points, provided a spark with her defensive quickness and shooting.
“We played well in all facets of the game in the first half,” coach Buhler said. “We were moving the ball around well and hitting shots, and then playing clamp-down defense.”
In an otherwise cold-shooting first half for the Lions, junior guard Leah Jim kept Yerington in the game with her outside touch. She scored 13 points in the half, including consecutive three-pointers to open the second quarter to cut the lead to 17-14.
North Tahoe responded with a 10-0 run, starting with Rojas hitting back-to-back shots from the perimeter, to extend the lead back to 27-14. But Yerington ended the half on an 8-0 run, using another three by Jim, and trailed only 27-22 at the midway point.
“Leah Jim carried us in the first half,” said Yerington head coach Pat Wulfekuhle. “And we're a big second-half team, so I knew we'd be fine.”
The Lakers emerged from the break a different team. They forced passes and threw the ball away, rarely getting off a high-percentage shot as they grew increasingly flustered. They stopped boxing out for rebounds, allowing the Lions to control both the offensive and defensive boards. And nearly every fast-break opportunity was cut off by a hard-charging Yerington player. Nothing came easy.
“It was all about offensive rebounding. They got two shots every time down and we couldn't even get one a lot of times,” said coach Buhler. “And we turned the ball over way too much.”
Yerington post Tahlyah McFalls took over in the second half. The sophomore opened the third quarter with four of her team-high 14 points to cut the lead to one point, which the Lakers managed to cling to while being held to just six points in the quarter. The Lions continually missed layup attempts off of North Tahoe turnovers, which prevented them from overtaking the Lakers in the quarter.
But the clock was not moving fast enough.
Buhler hit a pair of free throws to start the fourth before McFalls scored the next six points to give Yerington its first lead since the opening minutes, with 5:31 remaining. The Lions steadily built on the lead as the Lakers continued to turn the ball over, managing only six points to Yerington's 16 in the quarter.
“I think we finally woke up,” Wulfekuhle said, referring to his team's second-half performance. “We were a half-hour behind schedule and had pretty much just gotten off the bus, and I think that threw us out of whack a little bit.
“But North Tahoe, I give them a lot of credit. They played well. It was the best game I've seen them play all year.”
Yerington defeated North Tahoe 44-22 in early January.
Aside from Rojas' 15 points, Buhler scored 10, Angela Wood had seven and Jeffers five. McFalls led Yerington with her 14 points, all in the second half, while Jim scored all of her 13 in the first half and Ysela Brown finished with 11.
Yerington advanced to play top-seeded Pershing County in the semifinal round Friday as the Lakers' season came to an end.