‘We just fell short of our goal’

Late Lowry run ends Vaqueros’ title hopes

Fernley coach Ralph Dunn talks to his team during a timeout in the 3A state championship game against Lowry. (Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter)

Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

Regardless of how their season turns out, the message at the end of it that Fernley High School girls basketball coach delivers to his team is always the same. But for the second consecutive season, Dunn also had to remind them not to let the way it ended overshadow all that came before.

For the second straight season, the Vaqueros dream of claiming the school’s first state championship in girls basketball ended instead with Lowry hoisting the trophy while the Vaqueros were left wondering how it got away.

“The girls played their hearts out,” Dunn said. “I couldn’t be prouder for my girls and the coaching staff. We just fell short of our goal.”


Playing one of their best stretches of basketball of the season, the Vaqueros turned an 11-point deficit early in the second quarter into a 10-point lead, only to see it slip away just as quickly as Lowry danced to a 61-56 win.

As they did last season, the Vaqueros swept through the regular season undefeated in the Northern 3A East, but this time they entered the State Tournament as the No. 2 seed from the North after losing 82-71 to the Buckaroos in the regional championship game in Elko.

The first quarter of the state championship game looked a lot like the third quarter of that regional final in Elko, as Lowry jumped out to a quick 13-5 lead behind 3A MVP Savannah Stoker, who already had 13 points when Lowry ended the first quarter with a 20-12 lead.

After Bryce Brinkerhoff opened the second quarter scoring with a 3-pointer to put Lowry up 23-12, the Vaqueros suddenly came alive. A bucket by Jaelece Wasson ignited a 14-3 run and the Vaqueros tied the game at 26 on a basket by Jasmyne Torres.

The Vaqueros led 32-30 at the half and were up 36-32 when Wasson scored on three straight possessions, with two free throws, a layup on a fast break and a post-up to put Fernley up 42-32. At that point, Fernley had outscored Lowry 30-9 since being down by 11.

Autum Sanchez and Britain Backus each hit 3-pointers as Lowry drew within 47-42 to end the third quarter, and a 3-pointer by Tia Otuafi put Fernley back up by 5, at 52-45, with 4:35 left in the game.

That’s when Lowry went on a 14-0 run over the next 4 minutes to take a commanding 59-52 lead with 32.4 seconds left and put an end to Fernley’s championship dreams.

“We needed to get the small things done and have a pretty flawless game, especially being the state finals,” Dunn said.

Afterward, Dunn chose to focus on what the Vaqueros have accomplished in the last two years, with two undefeated league seasons, and a 59-6 record over the past two seasons.

“I can’t be more proud of how far they’ve come as basketball players and young ladies. I told them it’s just one of life’s stepping stones and keep their heads held high,” Dunn said. “I told them two things I always tell my teams in the past – enjoy your high school days, it’s the best times of their lives making lifelong friends; and make a difference in life.”

The Vaqueros got to the title game with a 58-50 win over Moapa Valley in the semifinals.

The game was tight throughout. Fernley’s biggest lead in the first half was six, at 28-22, after they had trailed 16-13. The game was tied at 32 midway through the third quarter, when a basket by Taylor Tollestrup, a coast-to-coast drive by Torres and consecutive baskets, including a 3-pointer, by Nadia Velazquez added up to a 9-0 run that made it 41-32, and Moapa Valley never again got close than six.

“It was a slow start and girls started to settle in,” Dunn said. “It was a close game and the girls kept their composure. A good win to get to the finals.”

Dunn also expressed gratitude for the support the team received throughout the season.

“I’d like to thank the school and the community for their outpouring of support. The girls really feed off it,” he said.

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