Memorable state tournament |

Memorable state tournament

Few sporting events compare with a high school basketball tournament.

With a variety of food about as near as the refrigerator at home and no household chores to interfere, my seat at Lawlor Events Center became better and better as the tournament proceeded.

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association lined up six straight 3A and 4A boys and girls’ games last Friday at the University of Nevada campus in Reno. The teams came from as far as Las Vegas and as near as Reno High.

They deservingly got to play on the same court that the Wolf Pack men’s and women’s teams use for their Western Athletic Conference games.

There is something magical about a win-or-go-home format. Spectacular plays are magnified and fans remember close games for years to come. Before this special day ceased, the Reno boys delivered the most memorable performance.

Fans should still be talking about Austin Morgan’s 37-point effort 10 years from now. It should go down as one of the great individual championship performances in tournament history. Morgan made 12-of-21 field goal attempts and didn’t miss a free throw in 10 attempts. When is the last time you saw an NBA player make that many free throws without a miss? Shaq probably would have a better chance of missing all 10 than making 10 straight.

For spectators who stayed for the 4A boys’ final late that night, they were treated to the back-and-forth flow typical of classic final games.

Morgan made sure that Reno’s final with Cheyenne didn’t become a classic for the ages by making four straight free throws inside the final minute of play.

“Our coaching staff is really committed,” Morgan said. “They just instill playing hard, and it just culminates in everybody. We just try to play hard and see what happens, and it usually ends in a win.”

Reno’s 76-72 victory provided the North with its first three-year state championship winning streak since Carson won three consecutive titles from 1936 through 1938.

“There are good players up here now,” said Reno coach Kyle Schellin. “Back in ’06, I had all seniors and three of them are playing college ball now. Last year, (Galena’s) Luke Babbitt is as good as a player as there has been around here in a long time, and four other seniors who were good players. And, this year, we were the best team, because we had the two-best players in the state on our team.”

Schellin was referring to Morgan and Duke-bound Olek Czyz. The Pack should make it a priority to keep Morgan at home, allowing him to join home-grown stars Babbitt and Armon Johnson in blue and silver. The Pack has a unique opportunity to polarize Northern Nevada and increase its fan base by signing another talented local player.

As for Czyz, many basketball fans wonder why Duke signed the 6-7 Reno star. But few guys his size run the court the way he does. He gets many of his points in transition, and with his 40-inch vertical leap, Czyz should be able to pull down a fair share of Duke’s missed three-point shots. He’ll be a nice role player for Mike Krzyzewski.

My only regret came when this fantastic day ended. Too bad that the NIAA can’t expand the state tournament and let more schools enjoy the experience. I wish the state tournament could start on a Tuesday and end on Saturday, allowing all four Nevada classifications to use the Pack’s facilities.

Today’s economy, however, won’t support it. But it does no harm to dream.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached

at (530) 542-8010 or

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