RENO – Pahrangat Valley coach Michael Strong sat alone on the floor in the tunnel outside his team’s locker room and took a moment to gather himself before talking to his players.
It was that kind of loss.
The Panthers turned the ball over 22 times Friday, including a pair of key turnovers in overtime, as Mineral County earned a 61-57 overtime victory in the Class 1A boys state semifinals at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center.
“We were down early and it didn’t look good,” Strong said. “Our kids battled back and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. We just couldn’t capitalize and turned the ball over too much down the stretch. This is going to be a tough one to swallow.”
The Panthers (24-4) looked to be in control after a pair of overtime 3-pointers by Richard Lewis, the second of which gave Pahranagat Valley a 57-55 lead with 1:32 left.
But Lewis fouled out with 1:02 to go, and the Serpents finished the game on a 6-0 run to earn the win.
“Even going into overtime I felt really good about our chances,” Strong said. “Richard obviously stepped up big time. It hurt when he fouled out.”
Robert McFalls had 21 points and five rebounds, and made four free throws in the final 25.6 seconds to help seal the win for Mineral County, which plays Spring Mountain (23-5) in the final at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday at Lawlor.
Victor Montoya hit five 3-pointers and added 15 points, and Damien Montoya had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Serpents, who defeated Pahranagat Valley in the 1A state title game last season.
Culen Highbe had 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots to lead the Panthers. He took a pass from Lewis and scored in the post with seven seconds to go in regulation to tie the game at 49 and force overtime.
Lewis had 16 points and six rebounds, and Preston Higbee scored 13 for Pahranagat Valley.
“Sometimes in life you’re going to work hard and you’re going to think you’ve earned something and you’re not going to get it,” Strong said. “That’s kind of what happened tonight. So it’s a good life lesson for us moving forward.”
Spring Mountain 57, Whittell 34 — The Golden Eagles used a stifling defense to roll past the Warriors in the other semifinal.
“We were trying to communicate mainly and work as a team unit and also understanding that we cant gamble in certain situations,” Spring Mountain coach Asad Ali said. “All the guys kind of worked together to get it pretty much in a positive way so we ended up having a positive game. Our defense dictates our offense.”
Whittell (26-4) made just 1 of 14 field goals to start the game, and Spring Mountain scored 13 points off 12-first half turnovers by the Warriors.
“I was real surprised they did that on defense,” Ali said of the forced turnovers. “But hey, they all worked together and it helped us on offense.”
Whittell made a fourth-quarter run to get back into the game, and cut the lead to 31-26 on a 3-pointer by Trent Dingman with 7:42 to play.
But Michael Johnson answered with a 3-pointer of his own to start a 7-0 run. After Dingman’s steal and layup gave Whittell some momentum, Shawn Shumpert scored the next five points to push the lead to 47-31, and the Warriors never threatened again.
Whittell was just 13-for-48 (27.1 percent) from the field.
Shumpert led the Golden Eagles with 19 points and added three assists and four steals. Johnson added 10 points, and Damariyae Royal grabbed 13 rebounds for Spring Mountain, which will be looking for its second state basketball title.
“This is pretty much a team that never played basketball in an organized situation, so this is a very big situation for them,” Ali said. “So hopefully we can finish the whole season out on a positive note and win state.”