By Dave Maxwell
The Pahranagat Valley High School girls successfully defended their 1A Southern League title for the third consecutive year and will take the No. 1 seed into the Central League-South League regional playoffs Feb. 21-22 in Reno.
The Lady Panthers had a rough start against league newcomer and second place Green Valley Christian Feb. 8 in Alamo, but a third quarter explosion led to a handy 54-22 victory.
It marks the seventh time in 10 years PVHS (9-10, 6-0) has gone unbeaten in league play.
Coach Amy Huntsman said in December, “It doesn’t really matter too much what you do in December; it matters most how you are playing in February.”
The other three times when the Panthers were not first place [2016, 2013, 2009], they had just one loss and finished in second place, but in 2009 they went on to win the state championship.
This was the first-ever meeting between the Panthers and Green Valley Christian since this is the first year in the league for the Guardians, a school out of Henderson.
The game started out rather ragged for both teams, with the score only 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. During the second quarter, Pahranagat relied on six free throws to keep the lead, and the Guardians struggled against the Panthers’ man-to-man defense, getting only four points themselves.
In was in the third quarter that the Panthers blew the game wide open with aggressive defense, overplaying the passing lanes, steals, good rebounding, and numerous breakaway opportunities. Morgan Harris put in 13 of her game-high 24 points, resulting in a 26-5 outburst that period.
Huntsman said, “We didn’t shoot well in the first half, something like 33 percent, but once we starting taking higher percentage shots in the second half, being more on balance, we did a lot better and, playing better defense, created better shots.”
By overplaying the passing lanes, the Panthers created turnovers and breakaway layups. Harris, in particular, did that four times.
Huntsman said she challenged the girls at the halftime break to “Play the way I know they can in the second half, and my team showed up in that second half.”
The girls had a good night at the foul line as well, shooting 16-for-21.
Ariana Davis, Abigail Johnson and Chloe Lamb all had six points for Green Valley. The Guardians made only one free throw.
After a regular finale against White Pine on Thursday, the girls prepare for the Central-South regional playoffs in Reno, Feb. 21-22.
They will face the No. 4 seed from the Central League, most likely the Tonopah Muckers.
The regional playoffs will be later this month in Reno. Four teams from the Southern League will enter, along with four teams from the Central League. Hosted by the Central League, the playoffs will begin at Reed High School in Reno, Feb. 21-22.
At the same time, the West hosts the East-West league playoffs at Wooster High School and at Hug High School.
The combined finals for both leagues will be held at Wooster, Feb. 23,
with the top two finalists advancing to the state tournament Mar. 1-2 at The Orleans in Las Vegas.