Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Still trying to process the loss several days after his team came up five points short in the 3A girls state championship game last Saturday, Fernley High School girls basketball coach Ralph Dunn found solace in a message his father one told him.
The Vaqueros lost 58-53 to Lowry in the state final at Lawlor Events Center, ending their 28-game winning streak and the quest for the program’s first state championship one win short.
“One lesson my dad taught me long ago was to enjoy what you’re doing, leave it all on the court and win and lose with class, always show sportsmanship,” Dunn said.
Earl Dunn was one of Nevada’s first high school basketball stars in the 1940s at Stewart Indian School and later became a community icon, both for his basketball exploits and his dedication to his community.
“He was respected by so many and his lessons he taught are still with me today,” Ralph Dunn said. “You have to enjoy what you’re doing as players and coaches, be accountable and responsible, and remember it’s all about the girls and the school.”
After winning 30 games with only three losses, going undefeated both in the Northern 3A East and in crossovers against the Northern 3A West, Dunn said the Vaqueros displayed all those qualities throughout the year.
“Don’t get me wrong, it sure would have been awesome to win that last game, but it doesn’t define who we are,” he said. “You have to be proud of all they accomplished this year. I sure was!”
The Vaqueros trailed by 11 on two occasions late in the third quarter, but rallied to get back within one point three times in the final 3:16 of the game. After pulling within 54-53 with 1:12 left, Lowry spread the floor and began running the clock down, until Savannah Stoker got free for a layup with 28 seconds left. The Vaqueros hurried the ball down the floor but came up empty and Stoker hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to put the game away.
The Vaqueros started the game out strong, getting out to an 18-10 lead, but Stoker scored on two old-fashioned three-point plays in the final 33.5 seconds of the quarter to cut it to 18-16. The Vaqueros never recovered their early momentum, and once Lowry took the lead on two free throws by Stoker with 2:40 left in the second quarter, the Vaqueros never led again.
Lowry stretched the lead to as much as 11 before Fernley’s fourth quarter run.
“The third quarter hurt, too many turnovers and not much scoring,” Dunn said. “The girls exerted a lot of energy to get the game close and giving us a chance.”
Ultimately, Dunn said, both teams made their runs.
“They just made a few more,” he said. “Like I’ve said all year long, to win the state title you had to go through Lowry.”
The Vaqueros got to the championship game by pulling out an overtime win over Pahrump. After a slow offensive start, the Vaqueros finished the second quarter by scoring nine points in the last two minutes and held a 24-18 lead.
Pahrump stayed within reach throughout the second half, then took advantage of two big breaks to force overtime. After Pahrump’s Paris Coleman hit a 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left to cut Fernley’s lead to 47-45, the Vaqueros threw a long inbounds pass the length of the floor, the ball went out of bounds, giving Pahrump the ball The officials conferred and determined the ball wasn’t touched before it went out of bounds, which gave the Trojans the ball back under their own basket, instead of on the opposite end of the court. Then Coleman got free under the basket and took the just to the right of the basket and scored as the buzzer sounded, tying the game at 47 at the end of regulation.
But the Vaqueros outscored Pahrump 8-0 in the extra period to earn their way into the championship game.
Although they fell short of the state title, Dunn said the Vaqueros should be proud of the way they played all season and represented the community that supported them through it all.
“I just hope the girls learned more about life skills and learned some things about basketball along the way,” he said. “The sportsmanship they displayed at the state title game didn’t go unnoticed. A lot of comments how the girls are a class act!”