For the second time in as many years, both Eureka County High basketball teams are headed to the postseason.
The boys and girls teams travel to Reno this week and begin play in the NIAA Division IV Northern Regional basketball tournament on Thursday. If either team wins its first two games of the single-elimination tournament and play in Saturday’s title game, then they will automatically qualify for a spot in next week’s state championship tournament in Reno.
The defending state champion Lady Vandals are looking for a repeat performance of their dominating 2012-13 run that ended with them hoisting the state championship trophy at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas last February.
But to do that, they will have to get through regionals first where they will face some tough competition.
The top seeded Eureka ladies (24-2, 10-0) will open up with Coleville (8-5), the four seed out of the west, at 3 p.m. at North Valleys High School in Reno. The winner of that will play the winner of the Smith Valley (11-3) and Wells (5-5) game on Friday at 3 p.m. at the same location. The regional title game is set to tip Saturday at noon at North Valleys High.
The Lady Vandals are coming off of one of the most dominant seasons in school history, and enter the playoffs on a 10 game winning streak. The 24 wins surpasses’ the win total of last year’s squad, while the two losses seem to be a distant memory.
The Eureka girls’ last loss was over a month ago on Jan. 21 when they fell to Division III White Pine 37-35. Their only other loss was a four-point defeat at the hands of Pahranagat Valley at the Comstock Classic tournament in Virginia City mid-December. The Lady Vandals quickly avenged that loss, however, two weeks later when they dropped the Lady Panthers 43-39 in Eureka.
On the boys’ side, the Vandals will look to continue their recent hot play when they take the floor in Reno this week. The Eureka boys come into the playoffs with a little momentum on their side after winning two out of their last three regular season games.
The fourth seeded Vandals (11-15,4-6), who face the one seed Whittell (13-1) out of the west in the quarterfinals, hope to get strong performances out of their top scorers Trevor Merritt and Paul Padilla. Merritt led his squad in scoring the last two games, including a 28 point outburst in a 59-48 win against Tonopah in the season finale, after scoring 17 a day earlier in a four point loss to McDermitt. Padilla scored 16 against the Muckers Saturday and 14 on Friday.
“We feel good and are confident, even knowing we are facing the number one seed this week,” said Eureka coach Elmer Porter. “Whittell is a very good team and we will need to equal or better their intensity when we play them. Even though we are young overall, I feel we have a team that can deliver.”
The Vandals game against Whittell is set to tip on Thursday at 8 p.m. If Eureka can pull off the upset, they will face the winner of Wells (8-2) and Sierra Lutheran (9-4) on Friday at the same time. The boys’ title game is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. All games are at North valley High School.
The full bracket, along with updated results is available at NIAA.com.