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DIVISION III GIRLS: Needles grabs early lead, holds on to set up date with White Pine in final

Needles girls basketball team didn’t exactly have one of its best offensive days Friday.

The Mustangs’ defense, though, gave the team just enough wiggle room.

Needles allowed just 19 points through the first three quarters, then held on to top Pershing County, 39-35 in a Division III state semifinal at Sunrise Mountain.

Needles (25-6) will meet White Pine (18-3) in the final at 6:20 p.m. Saturday at Orleans Arena.

“At the beginning of the season we had a lot of doubters,” Needles coach Manuel Calderon said. “Personnel wise, we had to make some drastic moves. We had our doubters, especially with a couple of freshmen we moved up to varsity and put in the starting lineup. As of today, it seems like everything worked out well for us. Our bench played a tremendous game today, getting on the loose balls, rebounding and doing the little things.

“It was a tremendous win for us.”

Needles used its size advantage on the boards to take an early lead and extended that lead to 35-19 when Brenna Chavez connected on a 3-pointer and Jane Antone scored on a short jumper with 6:39 left in the game.

But Pershing County (20-9) used its press to force turnovers and get back into the game. A 16-3 run pulled Pershing County to within 38-35 with 1:25 to play.

“Their press was a concern, and we worked on our press break all week,” Calderon said. “They are not very big in size, but we knew they were very quick. And, we were surprised we didn’t see that backcourt ball pressure earlier in the game. When they did, it did give us trouble on the inbounds pass, and we had a couple of turnovers that they capitalized on quickly. We were getting ourselves in trouble.”

Preslee Murch connected on a free throw to extend Needles’ lead to 39-35, and Pershing County was unable to score again as time expired.

Chavez led Needles with 12 points, and Antone added 11 points.

“We wanted that win; we were diving on loose balls, working hard, and we picked each other up,” Chavez said. “We didn’t let the mental side of the game get to us. We wanted that win. It was a little nerve-wracking in the fourth quarter, but it was good that we just kept fighting. We kept up with our effort, and we ended up pulling it out.”

Taryn Houston scored 20 points to lead Pershing County.

White Pine 49, Incline 40 — Debra Kingston scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Bobcats past the Highlanders.

Kingston scored five points in the last three minutes of the first half to help White Pine to a 19-15 halftime lead.

In the second half, Jaden Ernest provided a spark for the Bobcats, hitting four 3-pointers to extend the lead. Ernest finished with 13 points. Ashlyn Huntington scored nine of her 10 points in the second half and had six assists for White Pine.

Kira Porter scored 22 points to lead Incline (20-5), which also got 11 points from Molly Franklin.

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