Travis Gallagher knew if his team wanted to return to the 1A state girls basketball tournament for another year, they would have to beat No.1 ranked McDermitt and 1A girls state scoring leader Precious Masters.
Mission Impossible? Not really, because the teams had played each other tough in their two league meetings.
And the Lady Vandals came through, earning the No. 2 seed into the state tournament this Friday and Saturday at the Lawlor Center at UNR.
The girls first beat Coleville 53-21, then upset McDermitt in a double-overtime semifinal thriller 70-67, but lost to fourth place Wells in the finals.
Morgan Thomas and Cody Gibbs scored most of their 21 and 20 points respectively in the fourth quarter to pace Eureka to the 53-31 win over Coleville in the quarterfinals.
Karla Gutierrez had 12 points for Coleville. Pawahnee Minder tallied 10.
“In the last quarter we finally started looking like what we are supposed to look like,” Gallagher said, as Eureka broke away from a five-point lead in the fourth quarter to outscore the Wolves 20-6 and secure the win to move to the semifinals against McDermitt who started with a 59-18 blowout of Sierra Lutheran.
After losing twice during the season to the Bulldogs, once in overtime, Gallagher had a different game plan.
“I put a box-and-one on Masters most of the game with Cody as the one,” he said, “and rotated Carly Wells and Brianna Miller in to spell Cody. Cody played a strong game against her. The refs were letting it be a pretty rough game, too.”
“Masters was on defense against Morgan (Thomas)” he said, “and I just told Morgan take it at her. Masters had four fouls by the third quarter and fouled out in the fourth quarter which made a huge difference.”
The teams played close the first quarter, 17-16 for McDermitt. “We played great ball, right where we wanted to be,” Gallagher said. “But we went flat in both the second and third quarter. Just could not make a shot.”
The Bulldogs had a 39-34 lead going into the final period.
Eureka fought back, but never had the lead in the fourth quarter and trailed 52-50 with seven seconds remaining in regulation with the ball at the other end of the court.
“Coming up court, Karley Wells is left open in the short corner,” Gallagher said, “We got the ball to her and she throws up a flat shot from behind the backboard that rattles in as the buzzer sounded.” Absolute bedlam!
In the first overtime both teams only scored four points to go to a second overtime.
“Everybody was tired in that overtime” Gallagher commented, “nobody could keep up to anybody and the scoring was pretty easy.” Eureka scored 14 points to McDermitt’s 11, to give the Lady Vandals a thrilling 70-67 double overtime victory.
Thomas had a team high 29 points for Eureka, Gibbs had 11 and Angelika Townsend added 10.
McDermitt’s Marissa Bitt had 26 points for the Bulldogs.
In the championship with Wells Gallagher said, “We were just all tired from the night before, both teams were, but we still managed a three-point halftime lead. It was a slow-paced game. We were cold again from the field, just 24 percent in the first half and it didn’t get any better in the second half.”
A low scoring third quarter doomed the Vandals, being outscored 14-6 because the teams played even in the fourth quarter leading to the 41-36 win for Wells.
“Everything Morgan put up was short, 3-for-21,” he said. “Cody was even worse, 1-for-11. And we were only 2-for 15 on 3-point shots.” Free throws were only 4-of-8.
Leading scorer for Eureka was Teanna Green with 10.
At state on Friday, Eureka (16-9) begins with Pahranagat Valley (23-3). The Panthers topped the Vandals 48-40 at the preseason WREC tournament in Wells Dec. 1. Thomas had 17 points and Gibbs 14 that game. Karley Whipple scored 16 for Pahranagat.
The other state semifinal matches Round Mountain (16-5) and Wells (18-11). The girls championship is Saturday at 11 a.m.
Eureka last won the state championship in 2013, Wells’ last title was in 1989. Round Mountain has never won the championship, but they were runners up last year for the first time ever in the finals.
The games both days are being carried live by the NFHS Network on the NIAA website www.NIAA.com.