For the fourth time in as many seasons, the Eureka County High girls’ basketball team is going to the state tournament.
The Lady Vandals continued their dominant season last week, winning all three games they played, capturing the NIAA division IV girls’ regional basketball championship in Reno.
“I’m really proud of our team, they fought hard all weekend,” said Eureka coach Ken Fujii.
It wasn’t easy for Eureka though, as they had to get past a very tough Pyramid Lake team in the championship game on Saturday at North Valleys High School.
The title game was tight from start to finish as both teams traded leads early, with Eureka taking a slim 16-14 lead into the half. The two evenly matched teams eventually needed overtime to decide the outcome, after a late potential game winning bucket for Eureka was waived off when the Lady Lakers coach called timeout.
Both squads continued to battle it out in the extra session, but Eureka was able to pull away late for the 41-38 win. Natalie Norcutt led the way for the Lady Vandals with 18, and Taylor Usry finished with 11.
“It was a tough one, but we pulled it out,” said Fujii. “We had to play a really good game to beat them. They (Pyramid Lake) have an excellent basketball team.”
To get to the finals, the Lady Vandals first had to take care of business in the opening rounds. They had a great defensive effort in the quarterfinals on Thursday against Coleville, winning the game 40-12, before following it up the next day with a 51-31 win over the two seed Smith Valley.
Norcutt scored 15 in the win against Coleville, while Usry had 9 and Angela Porter 8. Usry continued her strong play against Smith Valley where she scored 19 points. Norcutt had 11, while Porter and Beth Damele each scored 7 in the win.
Now the Lady Vandals (27-2) turn their attention to the state tournament in Reno this week, where they look to defend their 2012-13 state championship. The Eureka girls will face a very familiar opponent in the first round in Tonopah, a team they have already beaten four times this season. Fujii expects a tough game with the Lady Muckers, even though his squad has routed them by 25 or more in each of their games this year.
“Tonopah has a solid team, they are very scrappy,” said Fujii. “They have three players that are excellent scorers, and we expect a tough game. All the games that we have played against them to this point mean nothing now.”
If they can get past Tonopah, the Lady Vandals will play the winner of the Pahranagat Valley and Pyramid Lake game in the state championship on Saturday at the Lawlor Events Center.
Pahranagat Valley is responsible for one of the two losses the Eureka girls have this season when they took them down in the Comstock Classic tournament in Virginia City 52-48 on Dec. 14. The Lady Vandals later avenged that loss two weeks later when they got by the Lady Panthers 43-39 at home.
The two teams’ have eliminated each other from state each of the last three seasons. Eureka won the state title game against Pahranagat Valley last year in Las Vegas, after being knocked out in the state semifinals by them a year earlier. The Lady Panthers also defeated Eureka in the state championship game in the 2010-11 season.
Fujii acknowledged that winning another state championship would be just as special as it was last year.
“It would mean everything to the team and the town if we brought back the title,” he said. The support has been outstanding this year, and we’ll do everything we can to bring it back home.”
Friday’s semifinal game against Tonopah is scheduled to tip at 6:20 p.m. at Wooster High School in Reno. The championship game is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at the University of Nevada’s Lawlor Events Center.