Agassi Prep boys basketball coach Wendell West wasn’t pleased with the way his team played down the stretch Friday.
But for a team that had no varsity experience at the start of the year, just making it to state was quite the accomplishment.
The Stars made just one field goal in the fourth quarter and saw a seven point third-quarter lead disappear in a 53-45 loss to Pershing County in the Division III state semifinals at Orleans Arena.
“In all honesty, I’m so proud of my team,” said West, who graduated all but one player from last season’s state runner-up team. “In the beginning of the season I didn’t see us being here at any point.
And they turned it on at the end of the season. We just had a tough game today.”
Agassi (13-15) led 37-30 after a 3-pointer by Steven Jones with 50 seconds to go in the third quarter. But Pershing County (25-6) went on a 17-3 run from that point that essentially ended the Stars’ season.
“We pushed to the lead and then we got comfortable,” West said. “They went on a run and then we laid down when they went on a run. And that’s about how the game ended.”
The Stars were 1-for-16 from the field in the fourth quarter. They were 1-for-8 on 3-pointers, often settling for long jumpers even though West wanted the players to push the pace and take the ball to the basket.
“We were trying to hit the home run shot instead of trying to get an easy basket or get a score every time down court,” West said. “Everybody wanted to be a hero, and it bit us in the butt tonight.”
West said his team’s youth showed down the stretch.
“For most of the fourth quarter we had five sophomores on the court, and I think the inexperience kind of bit us in the butt at the end,” West said. “But it’s a learning experience. We’ve got 11 of 13 guys coming back next year, and we’ve just got to put in the work in the offseason to get better and figure it out for next year.”
Jones led the Stars with 17 points.
Seth Montes scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter for Pershing County, which plays Lincoln County (23-6) in the title game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at Orleans Arena.
Lincoln County 64, Silver Stage 44 – The Lynx held the Nighthawks to 5-for-25 shooting (25 percent) in the first half on the way to the semifinal win.
“This is my second year with this group, and the first day I entered practice, I stressed man-to-man defense,” Lincoln County coach Matt Cameron said. “And from day one, these kids have gotten better, and better and better and it showed tonight. Our defense is what won us that game.”
Chandler Katschke had a big game with 21 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots for the Lynx.
“That kid should be going to college somewhere,” Cameron said. “He’s so unselfish. Our offense isn’t designed around him alone. He’s a player.”
Ryan Rippetoe shook off a slow start to add 20 points and 12 rebounds for Lincoln County, which had a 49-39 edge on the boards.
“He’s been beat, bruised and he’s fought down in the trenches all year long and hasn’t caught a break, yet he’s averaging double-doubles,” Cameron said.
The Lynx will be going for their first state title since 2008, something Cameron said the community is ready for.
“I think it means more to the parents than it does the kids if you know Lincoln County basketball,” Cameron said. “Most parents have five or six kids, and they’re ready for a state championship. And we’ve got a good opportunity to give them one.”
Michael Swope led the Nighthawks (14-11) with 15 points.