Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
After a couple of key turnovers and a couple of block/charge calls that all went against them and spoiled two rallies from behind by the Fernley Vaqueros in last Friday’s 3A state semifinal game against Boulder City, the Vaqueros were left to console themselves with the knowledge that sometimes, stuff just happens.
Boulder City took advantage of its late breaks to claim a 53-49 win and end Fernley’s hopes of playing in the state championship game in heartbreaking fashion.
“That’s just basketball, sometimes,” coach Derek Miller said. “It was just some late game high school stuff that happens.”
The Vaqueros had stormed back from a 12-point first-half deficit to lead by four going to the fourth quarter, then used a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead with 1:15 left in the game. But two key plays helped the Eagles score seven straight points, and instead sent them to the title game against Elko, where they lost 59-29.
“It’s just, good grief, we couldn’t catch a break,” Miller said.
The Vaqueros entered the fourth quarter up 35-31, after ending the third quarter on a 15-0 run. But Boulder City’s Roman Rose, a sophomore guard who led the Eagles with 22 points despite averaging 6 points per game in the regular season, hit two jumpers and a 3-pointer to put Boulder City ahead, 38-37. After a Boulder City free throw, Jett Caudle hit both ends of a one-and-one for Fernley to tie the game at 39.
After getting a stop on defense, the Vaqueros thought they’d taken the lead on a basket by Jake Cummins, but instead, he was called for a charge on the play, so instead of a 2-point Fernley lead plus a free throw, the ball went to Boulder City. At the other end, Boulder City’s star player, 6-foot-7 forward Gavin Douglas, collided with a Fernley defender as he tried to drive, but that one was called a block on Fernley, and moments later the Eagles took a 41-39 lead on a basket by Bruce Woodbury.
Boulder City pushed its lead to 45-39, but the Vaqueros came roaring back again.
First, Josh Cartagena hit two free throws with 2:24 left in the game to cut the lead to 45-41, and moments later Ryan Gamsby converted a basket to make it 45-43. After getting a stop on defense, the Vaqueros regained the lead at 46-45 on a 3-pointer by Cartagena.
The Vaqueros, who had gotten back into the game by forcing turnovers in their fullcourt pressure defense, did it again, with a steal by Caudle, and they called timeout with 1:09 left.
Miller said the Vaqueros used the timeout to set up a delay to try to force Boulder City to foul. But instead, Douglas jumped a ball screen, intercepted a pass and took it the other way for a layup, and was fouled. Douglas also made the free throw, so again, instead of being at the free throw line with a lead, the Vaqueros were down by two. Then, just as Miller was trying to call another timeout, a Vaquero dribbled the ball off a dead spot on the floor and lost the ball out of bounds.
“One ref called the timeout, and the other ref said the ball was out of bounds,” Miller said.
That forced the Vaqueros to foul, and the Eagles put the game away by hitting five of six free throws in the final 35 seconds.
“I was bummed, but I thought we made a good showing,” Miller said. “I’m proud of the kids. We had a good year.”
Boulder City looked like it had taken control of the game in the first half, with a 19-4 run that spanned the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. After Fernley led 6-3, Rose got hot for Boulder City. He hit four 3-pointers in the first half and wound up with six overall, as the Eagles built a 22-10 lead.
“We executed what we wanted to do defensively, and a sophomore guard started banging in threes,” Miller said. “It wasn’t like we blew coverages. We had a hand in his face, and he was still making them.”
Boulder City made much of that run after another snafu forced Miller to take Carson Kingston out of the game with three fouls. A foul against Caudle had been charged to Kingston in the scorebook, and Miller called a timeout to ask the officials to check with the scorer’s table and try to fix it, but they instead ruled that Kingston indeed had three fouls.
In response, Fernley abandoned its original defensive plan, which was to pack the paint to try to limit Douglas, and instead went to its press, which ended up turning the game around. The Vaqueros climbed back within 25-20, before Rose hit a 3-pointer just before the half to make it 28-20.
Rose started the third quarter with another 3-pointer for a 31-20 lead, but Fernley exploded for 15 consecutive points to end the quarter, 10 of them by Caudle, to take the 35-31 lead to the fourth quarter.
“We never thought we were out of it, and when we got the lead, we thought we were going to take this,” Miller said. “I was proud of the boys. They played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win it.”
Caudle led the Vaqueros with 22 points, while Cartagena added 13.