North Tahoe basketball: Girls make statement with big win over Lovelock |

North Tahoe basketball: Girls make statement with big win over Lovelock

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe guard Kelly Hester bumps elbows with a Lovelock defender on a drive to the basket in the Lakers' league opener Friday. The Laker girls won 47-31.

TAHOE CITY ” When the Laker girls took the court Friday evening at home against the Pershing County (Lovelock) Mustangs, there was more on the line than just their first league game. There were deeper wounds to heal.

Last spring the Mustangs were the team that in Laker head coach Scott Conn’s words, “embarrassed us; literally destroyed us” in a blowout season-ending victory in the first round of the Northern 2A regional tournament.

Still reeling from the slap in the face, the Lakers, led by a starting five of all seniors, played like they had something to prove.

And with swarming defense and good full-court ball movement, they did just that. North Tahoe dominated game play, running off with a decisive 47-31 victory over the Mustangs to start league 1-0.

The contest started slow as both teams got comfortable. At the end of the first quarter the Lakers (5-6 overall) led by a single point, 7-6.

Deftly breaking the Mustangs’ full-court press, the Lakers doubled their effort in the second quarter, knocking down 15 points to Lovelock’s 11 to bring the halftime score to 22-17.

Both teams came out of halftime battling hard, but the Lakers stepped it up another notch ” especially under the glass and in the paint. Laker forwards Shelby Adams and Sara Estrada pulled down rebounds at both ends of the court while guards Kelly Hester and Sydney Courcier found high-percentage open shots to keep North Tahoe up five, 33-28, going into the final quarter.

Hester put the first nail in the Mustangs’ coffin with her opening shot of the fourth quarter, a swishing three-pointer. The early-quarter bucket for the Lakers became a bad omen for Lovelock as the team struggled to find a groove amidst North Tahoe’s still restless defense. When the game ended it was unequivocal to Conn what had won the game for them.

“Defense was the story of the game,” Conn said. “Lovelock is a team that usually scores 50-plus points, but our goal was to hold them under 35. They shot 31.”

Laker guards Brit Johnson, Hester and Courcier applied the initial defensive heat, forcing turnovers all game, while forwards Shannon Stack and Adams held down the boards, denying put-back baskets and finishing with 10 rebounds apiece. Stack also blocked four shots and Adams three, while Courcier had a team-leading five steals.

On offense, it was Courcier leading the charge with 13 points while Hester scored 12 points to go along with her nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

The convincing victory with the whole team playing a strong role was exactly what the Laker players and coaching staff had in mind.

“The girls wanted to make this game a statement ” a win that would send a message to the league that we’re gonna be tough to beat,” Conn said.

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