Spring Mountain’s boys basketball team has never won a state championship.
The Golden Eagles showed some championship characteristics on Friday in the Division IV state semifinals at Orleans Arena.
Steven Jones had 18 points, five assists and four steals, and Spring Mountain held off Whittell for a 69-54 win.
“We basically played like a championship team,” Jones said. “We held the ball, we listened to our coach and we played disciplined. You don’t see that coming out of Spring Mountain teams mostly.”
The Golden Eagles (22-4) play Pahranagat Valley (17-7) for the title at 12:50 p.m. Saturday at Orleans Arena.
Spring Mountain led 37-32 in the third quarter when senior guard Shakori Clark made a huge play to spark the Golden Eagles. Clark hit a 24-foot, 3-pointer and was fouled by Whittell’s Palmer Chaplin. He completed the four-point play to push the lead to nine, and Spring Mountain soon led by double-digits.
“That was big,” Jones said. “We already had the momentum, but it just brought it right back up. It was a big play and it set us off.”
Spring Mountain coach Ed Cheltenham said it’s the type of play he’s come to expect from Clark, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“That’s what he does,” Cheltenham said. “He did the same thing against Pahranagat Valley. He came in at an opportune time and hit two or three 3s in a row. That gave us a shot in the arm and we ran on from there.”
Jones was whistled for a technical foul with 4:40 to go. But the senior was able to shake it off and keep his composure, even after he was fouled hard by Chaplin with 1:51 to play.
“I know myself. I know I’m going to play regardless; I’m going to play to my highest extent,” Jones said. “So I just let it go, because I know if you get two techs you can’t play in (the) state (championship). So I had to let it go.”
The Warriors (25-4) got as close as 55-48 on two free throws by Chaplin with 2:54 to play. But the Golden Eagles answered with a fast-break basket by Deondre Ishman, and Clark hit a free throw and made a 15-foot runner after the intentional foul by Chaplin to push the lead back to double figures.
Maurice Stitt had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Ishman added 12 points and six boards for Spring Mountain.
Chaplin had 26 points and five assists for Whittell, and teammate Quinn Kixmiller had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s crazy,” Jones said. “Spring Mountain’s never had a state championship in the history of Spring Mountain. And this is our coach’s last year, so we’ve got to get it for him.”
Pahranagat Valley 26, Virginia City 23 — The Panthers shot 22.6 percent and turned the ball over 21 times but found a way to edge the Muckers to move into the final.
“Our kids over the last couple weeks find a way — they never make it easy — but they find a way to make a play here or there,” Pahranagat Valley coach Mike Strong said. “And we’ve definitely had some close ones, for sure.”
Virginia City’s Clint Hess scored off turnovers on consecutive possessions to tie the game at 23 with 1:46 to play.
The Panthers (17-7) took the lead when Shawn Wadsworth hit 1 of 2 free throws with 53.9 seconds left. He added 1 of 2 free throws with 11.2 seconds, and Wade Leavitt hit 1 of 2 with 8.5 seconds left for the final margin.
Virginia City (27-4) was 0-for-4 from the line in the final 1:08, missing the front end of two one-and-one opportunities. For the game, the Muckers were 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) from the foul line.
“Obviously some key free throws missed down the stretch,” Strong said. “Either team probably could have put the ballgame away.”
Virginia City had a chance to take control with 6:37 to play and the game tied at 17. Tabor Maxwell was whistled for an intentional foul, but Hess missed both foul shots, and the Muckers were whistled for a five-second violation in the inbound play.
Christian Higbee then hit a long 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Panthers up 20-17. It was the only shot Higbee attempted, and Pahranagat Valley’s only field goal in the fourth quarter.
“Christian Higbee hit a big one for us,” Strong said. “And he’s capable, and we have kids that are capable to shoot it. It didn’t show today.”
The Panthers were 7-for-31 from the field. The Muckers were even more dismal, making just 8 of 44 (18.2 percent). Virginia City was 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) on 3-pointers as both teams struggled to adjust to shooting in the arena.
“I think a lot of it was the arena, but I also think it was pretty good defense on both parts,” Strong said. “As you begin to struggle shooting, then struggles get worse instead of getting better.”
Maxwell had seven points and eight rebounds to lead the Panthers. Leavitt had nine rebounds and three assists, and Jacob Roemer had eight rebounds for Pahranagat Valley.
Hess led all scorers with 15 points, but was 5-for-22 from the field and 3-for-12 from the foul line.