By Dave Maxwell
The Eureka’s County High girls basketball team was looking for a repeat of their state basketball championship at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno last Saturday, but Bailee Hosier of Pahranagat Valley proved to be too much for them.
Hosier lit up the place with five three-point shots (she made a state record eight the night before in the semifinals), and 21 points total, and despite a furious fourth-quarter rally, the Vandal gals fell short 50-46 in their attempt at a second straight title.
It was the third time the teams had played this season, both non-league meetings, one in December and one in January, and each game was only a four-point spread, Pahranagat winning twice.
In the championship, the Vandals fell behind quickly 18-7 after the first quarter, then 31-18 at halftime.
Coach Ken Fujii admitted it was a deep hole to climb out of, and he didn’t know why his defending state champions (28-3) got out of the gate so slowly. “If there is a reason, I don’t know what it is,” he said. “You hope your team will come out and play effectively from the start, but it doesn’t always work that way.”
Natalie Norcutt was about the only offense for the Vandals in both halves, But she did well, with 13 points in each half, 26 total, but was the only Eureka player in double figures. Shara Green finished with eight points.
The teams played dead even, 11-points each, in the third quarter, Alamo pushing the lead to as many as 15 points, but in the fourth quarter, the Vandals turned on the afterburners and the rally started.
“They were playing aggressive, and they’re very, very tough,” said Pahranagat coach Amy Huntsman. “I knew we needed a lead because I knew they were going to make a run.” And the Vandals did just that, to the growing delight of a large Eureka crowd on hand.
Norcutt had six of her points, Beth Damele hit a three, and Shara Green with a bucket, were part of a 15-5 run that brought Eureka within 49-46 with 1:12 to play, just a one-possession game.
But Pahranagat was able to keep control of the ball and Hosier hit the front end of a 1-and-1 foul shot with 12 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.
“We got behind too far,” said Fujii, a nearly 30-year coach veteran and holder of five state titles. “There was a catch-up process that just fell short. We wanted to get the closer shots inside (in the second half) and draw some fouls. The kids were pretty disappointed that they started so slow and did not have the intensity they needed in the first half.”
In the semifinals at Wooster High on Friday, it was all Eureka from the beginning as Norcutt had 11 of her 15 points in the first half as the Vandals built a 34-15 halftime cushion, then cruised to a 59-30 win over Tonopah (12-10) in the first semifinal.
Taylor Usry scored eight points during a 23-8 second-quarter run for Eureka. Usry finished with 14 points for the Vandals. Beth Damele also contributed eight points.
Ashley Gray had 10 points for Tonopah, but the Muckers never scored more than nine points in any quarter.