With 3:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Pahranagat Valley girls trailed visiting Round Mountain 36-30. Then the Lady Panthers hit four three pointers, one by Shayla Leavitt and three from Karley Whipple, tightened their defense and scored the final 13 points of the game to take a come-from-behind 46-37 win in a battle for first place in the Class 1A Southern League.
Facing last year’s league co-MVPs Hannah Swafford and Alyssa Hanks, coach Amy Huntsman said, “We just planned to not let them have the ball.” Leavitt was in Swafford’s face all game holding her to seven points. In the meantime, Gracie Carter, Madi Taylor and Allyse Frehner rotated to double-team Hanks and held her to seven points as well, only two baskets.
A very physical game early on, the Panthers defense seemed like a bunch of angry bees, swarming to every pass and every loose ball, keeping the scoring down to a minimum with the Panthers holding a 13-11 halftime lead.
Things opened up more in the second half, and Round Mountain (10-6, 2-1) tied the score at 23 at the end of the third quarter on a long shot that banked in at the buzzer.
Tia Sample then hit back-to-back three pointers early in the fourth quarter giving the Knights a 36-30 lead. Huntsman said, “I wasn’t worried, I knew we had time, I just felt we needed to make the adjustments quick and we did, it was a team effort.”
Whipple tied the game at 37 with a three pointer with 1:36 remaining and another gave Alamo the lead. She finished with 19 points for Alamo. Leavitt had 12. Tia Sample was high for Round Mountain with 13.
“I feel we are finally coming together, peaking as a team,” said Huntsman. “I’m really proud of the girls for their defense. We basically just ran a triangle-and-two. We had worked really hard on that all week in practice. It was really good for the girls to get some confidence.”
Taylor said the game plan was to deny the ball inside to Hanks, known for being able to draw the foul and go to the line where she is nearly 80 percent accurate. In this game, she was only 3-of-4, primarily because she just didn’t have the ball. Pahranagat (9-7, 3-0) has two games this week, a league game at Sandy Valley (2-5, 0-3) today, then non-league with Mountain View (4-13) in Alamo on Saturday.
In the following weeks the Panther girls will face all four of the other contenders for a playoff spot with three of the final four games, including the last three, in Alamo.
The No. 1 and 2 seeds in the playoffs get a first round bye and move to the league tournament semifinals Feb. 17 at Sunrise Mountain High in Las Vegas.