A young Virginia City boys basketball team appears to be growing up at just the right time.
The No. 3 Muckers, with a roster containing only three seniors, used a game-opening run and a decisive third-quarter advantage to hold off Wells, 49-39, in the first round of the Division IV North regional Thursday at Bishop Manogue.
Virginia City (20-8) advanced to today’s semifinals at North Valleys, where it will meet Owyhee. Wells’ season ended at 12-11.
“As good of kids as these are, they don’t have a lot of varsity minutes, and so they’re not used to things like sustaining early leads,” Virginia City coach Dick Lee said. “But this is a great place to learn. It’s great for the younger players; for these kids to get this kind of experience was really important.”
Virginia City appeared to be anything but a nervous team when Thursday’s game opened. The Muckers jumped to an 8-0 lead, combining an aggressive offense with some key defensive plays. Just when it looked like Virginia City might blow Wells completely off the floor, though, the Leopards began to get into the flow of the game and eventually tied the score at 10 near the end of the first quarter.
After holding a narrow 25-24 lead at the half, the young Muckers responded emphatically to Wells’ challenge in the third. Adjustments on both sides of the ball led to a 12-5 advantage in the quarter and a 37-29 lead headed into the fourth.
“We went to a different lineup, a smaller lineup,” Lee said. “I thought Steven Punchard, with help from his teammates, did a good job on their best scorer (Farnes Egbert).”
Egbert finished with eight points, but did not score in the second half, a large part of the reason that the Muckers were eventually able to open a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and begin working the clock.
“It was a close game at half. We all got together and knew we had to pick it up,” the Muckers’ Jordan Popiela said. “We all want to go to Vegas (for the state tournament).”
Popiela led a balanced Virginia City offense with 14 points. Brayden Ferguson scored nine points, and Punchard and Quintin Allen each had eight.
For Wells, Armado Soriano scored 13 points. Andrew Woolsey finished with 10.
EUREKA 49, PYRAMID LAKE 43 at Bishop Manogue: The Vandals, the fourth seed from the East League, controlled the game and stunned the West League champion Lakers.
Dakota Howard scored 18 points to lead Eureka (9-16), including four key free throws to help hold off a Pyramid Lake rally.
After trailing throughout the game, the Lakers fought back for a 41-41 tie when Sam Harry hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 left. Eureka, though, remained steady down the stretch, limiting the cold-shooting Lakers to a single basket from that point.
“We haven’t been able to put together a game like that until now,” Eureka coach Elmer Porter said. “We can play with the big boys, but we just needed to sustain the effort.”
Josh Plaskett scored eight points for the Vandals, who also got seven apiece from Nick Hornberger and Damian Branting. Brothers John Barlese and Richard Barlese each scored 14 for Pyramid Lake.
OWYHEE 66, MINERAL COUNTY 50 at Galena: A slow start couldn’t stop Owyhee from earning the victory.
The Serpents kept pace during the first period, outscoring the Braves, 13-9, but it wouldn’t last long. Owyhee broke away, 33-22, by halftime and wouldn’t give in the rest of the way.
Owyhee was up by more than 15 late in the fourth quarter, which coach Tim Olsen said is a tribute to his team’s conditioning. Braves senior Braxton McKinney scored a game-high 15 points and his brother, junior Skylon McKinney, followed with 13.
“It’s just the way we conduct practice and every conditioning drill as if it’s a game. My kids just work hard and they love basketball,” Olson said. “We got off to a slow start, but (tonight) against Virginia City, that just can’t happen,”
Owyhee earned a semifinals berth against Virginia City at 4:40 p.m. today at North Valleys.
— Eric Lee Castillo, Special to RGJ
JACKPOT 56, SIERRA LUTHERAN 44 at Galena: Jackpot became a little too comfortable in the closing minutes.
The Falcons had Jaguars coach Carlos Perez looking up at the game clock with about four minutes left in the fourth period.
Two minutes earlier, Jackpot was ahead, 48-26, but Sierra Lutheran went on a 13-0 run.
“When I looked up at the time, I was just thinking, ‘I have to help my players by calling a timeout or something, because we just need to settle down,'” Perez said. “Our kids play the clock and the score a lot so I just wanted to make sure they knew where they were suppose to be at.”
Sierra Lutheran (8-5) scored only five points after that timeout.
Jackpot (9-2) junior forward Darren Hester played dominant defense in the middleand scored a game-high 24 points.
— Eric Lee Castillo, Special to RGJ