Momentum isn’t everything, after all.
The Meadows boys basketball team slumped badly heading into the postseason, but that meant nothing on Saturday. The Mustangs blew things open in the second quarter and cruised to a 63-44 victory over Lincoln County to claim the Class 2A Southern League championship at Del Sol.
Both teams will play in next week’s state tournament, which begins Friday at Eldorado High.
Joe Epstein had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead The Meadows, which used a 20-0 scoring run beginning late in the first quarter to turn a close game into a blowout.
“My guys believe in the coaching staff,” said Mustangs coach Brian Lang, whose squad lost three of its last four regular-season games before defeating Lake Mead in the semifinals. “That’s what made the difference between the games we lost (at the end of the regular season) and these last two games. We just had to go back and fix some things.”
The Lynx led only once, a 3-0 advantage gained when Mathew Hafen nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner early in the first quarter.
The Mustangs scored the next eight points, but clung to a 12-10 lead after Obinna Ezeanolue hit a layup to end the first quarter. That’s when things turned, as The Meadows scored 20 consecutive points to take control in the second quarter.
Lang, whose team split two regular-season games with the Lynx, said junior guard Trey Covell was the key.
“They weren’t guarding him, but he wouldn’t shoot the ball,” Lang said. “I was yelling at him to shoot, and he finally started shooting.”
Covell scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and Epstein scored 10 points during the spurt.
Lang said Epstein’s performance was not a surprise.
“He’s playing like a senior captain,” Lang said. “He didn’t want to lose.”
Lincoln County used a 9-3 fourth-quarter scoring run to cut the deficit to 53-37, but Epstein controlled the final five minutes to secure the Mustangs’ victory.
Though The Meadows entered the game with a guaranteed berth into next week’s state tourney, Lang said Saturday’s win still was an important one.
“Every game means something to these kids,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it means something to win the league.”
Covell finished with 19 points and four rebounds, and Ezeanolue added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The Lynx, who were outrebounded 43-33 and struggled at the three-throw line (8 of 25), got 14 points and two steals from Kobe Kelley.