By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
While most may have been busy finishing off their stash of holidays cookies, the Moapa Valley High School Girls Basketball team was getting back on the court. Green Valley High School hosted the annual Gator Winter Classic on Dec. 27-29, and the Pirates were in attendance and hoping for a successful outing.
The tournament began with pool play. In the Pirates’ group would be Foothill, Clark, and Valley High School.
The Pirates started their week with a game against the Clark Chargers. Moapa would stay in control of that game, with Lainey Cornwall leading the attack. She finished with 26 points and gave Moapa a positive start to their pool play performance.
However, later that day, the Pirates would take on a tough Foothill team. The Falcons would pull off a 52-34 victory, dropping the Pirates to .500 on their first day.
“We just kind of went cold,” said Moapa Valley head coach Stuart Humes of the second game. “They had some length and size that really bothered us. The second game in a day is always tough to find your legs.
Despite the fact we didn’t shoot well from outside, we actually did some good things and it was a good test for us.”
A day later, the team would wrap up pool play with a matchup with Valley. The Vikings and Pirates were facing off for a spot in the Gold Bracket in tournament play. Cornwall scored another twenty points and sophomore Kaitlyn Anderson added 25 of her own to lead the team to a dominant 67-45 win.
In the Gold Tournament, the Pirates had a tough climb ahead if they wished to make it to the tournament championship. They would have to face a play-in game before the quarterfinals. This game came against South Anchorage High School, who traveled from Alaska for the tournament.
The Pirates got off to a slow start, but were able to maintain control for the final three quarters and win the game, 45-36. This was behind another twenty-point performance by Cornwall.
In the quarterfinals, Moapa Valley took on Dixie (UT), a team they had met earlier this season and beat 46-43 in a close finish. This time, the Pirates would pull off another victory in a defensive battle that would finish 38-31. Stout defense by Moapa in the second quarter kept the Flyers scoreless for all eight minutes and played a major role in the victory for the Pirates.
“We didn’t need to score a ton because our defense was just lights out and secured us a spot in the semifinal,” Humes said.
There, MVHS would run into Cimarron-Memorial. With talent at all spots on the floor, the Spartans gave the Pirates a hard time.
With tip-off coming at just 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning, Moapa struggled to fully wake up and catch up with the athleticism of Cimarron-Memorial, and their tournament would end in the semifinals, wrapping it up with a 4-2 record for the week.
“They were really athletic and played aggressive man to man defense,” Humes said of that final game. “We kept it relatively close in the first half but trying to find legs that early in the morning on a Saturday is tough. The girls still played their guts out.”
As for his team’s performance as a whole, Humes was more than satisfied. “It was a really good week for us,” he said. “The girls really bonded together. Everything that we could have hoped for going into the tournament came to fruition. Looking back on this in a month and a half or so, I think we’re going to see that this really paid off.”
He continued, “It couldn’t have worked out any better. We were really pleased with the results and pleased with our younger girls stepping up and realizing they can compete with these higher level teams.”
Now that league play will be resuming this week, Humes silenced all doubt that may lie with the high expectations for the Pirates after their thrilling start.
“There’s just something about this group of girls,” he said. “They recognize that they can be beat if things don’t go well and it keeps them sharp and focused. I think once we start league play again you’ll see a good product on the floor that shows these girls are ready to make a state run.”
With the state tournament no more than a month and a half away, the team will be eagerly awaiting their upcoming games to reaffirm their spot at the top of the standings.