‘We’re going to Vegas:’ Cameron McAndrews’ game-winning 3 sends Lakers to first state appearance since ‘98
Before the ball ever left North Tahoe junior guard Cameron McAndrews’ hand, he knew it was going in.
The No. 5 seed North Tahoe boys’ basketball team shocked No. 1 seed West Wendover last Friday night in Sparks, pushing the regular season league champions to overtime before McAndrews banked in a deep, high-arcing 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to give the Lakers a 62-61 win.
“Right when Liam (Bickett-Walsh) gave it to me, I knew it was in,” said McAndrews. “I knew that one was going in. I didn’t even know it was a game winner … we’re going to Vegas.”
The game-winning shot sent the Lakers into last Saturday’s league championship game against Incline and clinched the program’s first state tournament berth since 1998.
After battling West Wendover to a 52-52 tie at the end of four quarters at Sparks High School, it appeared the Wolverines would be able to hold on for the win. West Wendover held a 61-59 lead with under a minute remaining in overtime and had just rebounded their own missed free throw.
As the Wolverines swung the ball around in an effort to kill time, a West Wendover player lost his balance near the baseline and attempted to find a teammate near half court. Bickett-Walsh intercepted the pass, and pushed it ahead to McAndrews, who launched a deep, rainbow 3 from the left side as the final seconds ticked away.
“I just screamed as loud as I can … I can’t believe it right now,” said McAndrews on watching the shot kiss high off the glass and go in.
“I wanted to upset (West Wendover). I wanted to go to Vegas so bad.”
The Wolverines would have only enough time to inbound the ball before the final buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers the upset win over the Class 2A Northern League’s top-seeded squad.
Following an emotion-filled, late-night contest against West Wendover, the Lakers were forced to make a quick turnaround and face Incline the following day for the league title at 1 p.m. in Sparks.
The Highlanders blitzed the Lakers from the outset, taking advantage of a team that was playing their fourth game in five days. Incline raced ahead to a 23-7 lead after the first quarter and never let up on the way to a 74-33 win and this year’s Class 2A Northern League championship.
“They are human beings, anybody would be tired after the adrenaline and emotion of the last game,” said Coach Devin Ginty on the quick turnaround. “I knew they were going to give everything they had … that’s why we are in this place. These guys battle every time and give everything they have. Last night probably played a part in us not having enough today … we’re never going to use that as an excuse.”
Incline’s defense flew all over the court from the outset of the contest, creating numerous turnovers off of traps and presses. Offensively, the Highlanders buried 12 3-pointers on the afternoon, never allowing North Tahoe a chance to get back into the game.
“They haven’t played that way this year yet, but it’s what they’ve done in the past,” said Ginty on Incline’s game plan. “We knew they were going to come out and bring a lot of pressure. That’s part of their identity and they do a great job at it. Unfortunately, we didn’t respond in the way that our guys are capable of.”
Though the Lakers came up short in their bid for a Northern League title, the team will get a shot at greater glory this weekend as one of the Northern League’s two representatives at the 2019 Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 2A State Basketball Championships in Las Vegas.
When North Tahoe takes the court in the semifinal matchup against Southern League champions, The Meadows, it will mark the team’s first state tournament appearance since 1998. The Lakers basketball program owns one state title in its history, which came in 1986.
The Meadows pulled an upset of their own during the Southern League tournament, smacking top-seeded Lincoln County, 63-44, in the finals.
The state tournament semifinals matchup between North Tahoe and The Meadows will take place Friday at 8:15 p.m. at Eldorado High School in Las Vegas. Incline will face Southern League runners-up Lincoln County earlier in the day.
“I’m just happy for our guys to be at this point. First in over 20 years for our school,” said Ginty.
“For these guys to make it, I’m really happy for them to experience this in their lives. This is something they are going to remember forever.”
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.