By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
This time last season, the Moapa Valley High School Girls Basketball team was defeating Lincoln County, Cheyenne, and West Wendover to win the Lake Mead Holiday Classic preseason tournament in Las Vegas. This season, the story stays the same for all but the teams the Pirates took on along the way.
Looking for a strong start to the season, Moapa Valley began with the annual tournament at Lake Mead Christian Academy.
In their first game of the bracket, the Pirates took on the host school, the Lake Mead Eagles. The Pirates spread the ball around, as three different players hit double figures. Lainey Cornwall scored 15, Shelbi Walker added 13, and Kaitlyn Anderson scored 11 for Moapa Valley en route to a 59-29 victory.
With this win, the Pirates moved on to the semifinals of the tournament on Friday. Here the Pirates had a tough opponent, the Clark Chargers of the Division 4A.
Clark came out with a big second quarter performance to give themselves a 28-23 lead at the half. Trailing in the fourth quarter still, the Pirates needed a late game rally. The deficit was as much as eight in the third quarter. However, clutch late-game shooting from Cornwall and Walker turned the tide of the game.
The Pirates ate away at the lead until all of a sudden they were in the lead with just minutes on the clock. Moapa Valley would hold on to a 54-50 win, and book a trip to the tournament championship.
“They showed so much resilience to give us a chance to play in the championship,” said MVHS head coach Stuart Humes.
In the championship game, the Pirates would take on the Lincoln County Lynx in a rematch of last season’s quarter final matchup. The Lynx came out hot and jumped out to an 8-2 lead early on. But the Pirates would fight back to cut it to 12-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Lincoln County would still hold onto the lead in the second, but it would be narrowed even further at 22-21 by halftime.
“Lincoln County came out physical,” Humes said. “They kind of blitzed us a little bit.”
Coming out of the halftime break with a new sense of purpose, the Pirates outscored Lincoln County 16-6 in the third quarter to pick up a lead. They would hold onto that lead in the fourth quarter. Leading the charge in the rally for the Pirates was none other than leading scorer and lone return starter Lainey Cornwall.
“Once again late, Lainey Cornwall kind of took charge attacking the basket and getting to the line,” Humes said. “The outside shot wasn’t falling for us at all and her willingness to attack the basket for us really set the tone for the comeback. She knocked down some huge shots and led us in scoring all three nights and averaged just over 18 points per game. She was amazing at providing that leadership.”
Also playing an outstanding tournament was fellow starting guard Kaitlyn Andersen, who averaged a double-double for the weekend, with just over 16 rebounds per game.
While the deep shot wasn’t falling as often against Lincoln County, it played a vital role in the Pirates’ comeback against the Chargers. Coach Humes commented on the team’s acceptance of the three ball as a strength, saying, “We believe that the three point shot is going to be a huge weapon for us this year.
They’ve embraced it. We think if we can shoot a decent percentage from the three point line, we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”
While there’s plenty of season ahead, the Pirates hope to use this preseason tournament title as a contributor to their confidence going forward. With league play starting this week, Moapa will try to improve on their team chemistry and continue building upon this successful start.