By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
While it is exciting and easy to get caught up in the thrill of the Moapa Valley girls basketball season this year. The team is flying high right now, seemingly unstoppable. But before the team can get to the state championship playoffs, there are plenty of improvements to be made.
A matchup with a Division 4A opponent last week made for the perfect challenge to the team’s mental toughness. The team was able to step up.
The Pirates went on the road to Rancho High School on Tuesday, Jan. 30. There the Pirates found themselves in a neck and neck matchup. The Moapa team fell behind early, thanks largely to the speed and athleticism on the Rams’ side of the ball.
With Rancho holding an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, it seemed like the game would go down as just a good test for the Pirates, but one of only a few losses this season.
However, just in the nick of time, Moapa calmed down and climbed right back into the fray. Before they knew it, the Rams found themselves tied with the Pirates with just half a minute to play. The score was 42-42.
With Rancho having possession, the Pirates needed a stop to get the ball back and have a chance to win. As the clock got down under ten seconds to play, the pressure was on. The Rams attacked the rim and with little time remaining, the Pirates were called for a shooting foul.
At the line, the free throw shooter for the Rams delivered. She made her first to take the lead. But the second would slip off the rim and the Pirates called for a timeout. There was just under two seconds left to play.
The ball was inbounded to Lainey Cornwall on the right wing and she attempted a fading three pointer right at the buzzer. But she was fouled by a Rams opponent: three free throws. Cornwall missed the first, but with two more to come, she still had an opportunity to win it or at least send it into overtime.
She made them both, and the Pirates took the lead. They wouldn’t give it up in the final seconds. They pulled off a 44-43 victory, in the highest-pressure circumstances.
“It’s huge any time you can play an athletic team and be in a tight situation,” MVHS head coach Stuart Humes said. “The intensity was there like the playoffs would be, so it’s exactly what you hope for. To have to come back in the fourth quarter like we have in the past was perfect. It’s just what we needed.”
When asked about how he handles late game situations, Humes said the team tries to avoid making drastic changes. “We’ve had a couple practices where we work on late game scenarios,” he said. “We don’t spend a lot of time with it but what we try to do is make just a few tweaks to what we normally do and we trust the girls to execute.”.
Humes also expressed the importance of allowing the younger and more inexperienced players an opportunity to be a part of an intense environment. “What made this game so awesome is that the younger girls got to see what it means to be experienced with these types of games,” Humes said. “When we’re down eight to Rancho, you look into these girls’ eyes and it didn’t faze them.”
Later in the week, the Pirates played their final home regular season game against Del Sol. It was “Senior Night.” Recognition went out to Pirate seniors Natalie Mills, Macy Morgan, and Shelbi Walker. But as Humes described, the girls know how much more season they still have ahead.
Regardless, the team took care of business on their home court. on Thursday night. They took a 64-29 victory to round out the week. Cornwall put 21 on the scoreboard to lead the team. Walker scored 13 and Kaitlyn Anderson scored 11.
It was a typical Moapa Valley game where the talent on the Pirates’ side was evident from start to finish.
Going through valuable learning experiences last week is certain to help this Pirates team when they play with their season on the line in just weeks away. Only two games remain in the regular season, and then the Pirates have an opportunity to defend their top seeded billing and perhaps make a run at the state tournament for the second straight season.