Much like a year ago, an impressive season by the Nevada Union girls basketball team ends on a sour note.
The No. 4 seeded Lady Miners shot poorly from the field and struggled on both sides of the ball down the stretch as the No. 13 seed Lady Troubadours from St. Francis rolled into a packed Albert Ali Gymnasium Tuesday night and upset NU, 50-42, in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
“They played a more physical game than we did and we weren’t allowed to get away with any physicality,” NU head coach John McDaniel said. “It’s tough but they played a great game.”
The Lady Miners (21-5), who lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, shot a miserable 13-of-54 from the field against St. Francis (15-12) and hit just 12-of-22 free throws in the game, including a stretch were they hit 1-of-7 in the final three minutes of the game.
The Lady Troubadours hit 7-of-8 from the charity stripe in the final three minutes.
“We didn’t do well, the things we normally do well,” said McDaniel. “(St. Francis) is physical and they put a lot of body on you when you got the ball, and when you go to take a shot. We weren’t really allowed to play defense and they were allowed to play a lot of defense, lets put it that way.”
Nevada Union, which had averaged 60.9 points per game heading into the contest and were undefeated at home until Tuesday night, looked sluggish and out of sync from the start.
The Lady Miners were held to just 10 points in the first quarter, missing several easy inside shots, but their defense matched the intensity of St. Francis, holding the Lady Troubadours to just eight in the opening stanza.
In the second quarter St. Francis started to find its groove.
The Lady Troubadours outscored NU, 19-11, behind a stellar offensive performance from Najah Queenland. The talented guard scored 11 of her game high 21 points in the second quarter.
The Lady Miners headed to halftime staring down a 27-21 deficit.
In the third, NU looked like the team that had won 21 games and the Sierra Foothill League title this season, charging out of the gates on a 9-0 run behind a 3-pointer from senior Kaylin Martin, a free throw from senior Sarina Orellana, a jumper by sophomore Sammy DeHart, and a 3-pointer from Sydney Porter.
With the Lady Miners up 30-27, St. Francis answered with a bucket from Abby Dow. DeHart pushed the NU lead back to three with a crafty inside shot for two.
St. Francis was not impressed though, closing the quarter on a 5-0 run, including a layup at the buzzer to put them up, 34-32, heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, the Lady Miners and the Lady Troubadours traded blows like two prize fighters in the final round of a boxing match. The two teams went back and fourth never gaining more than a two-point edge over the other.
With just two minutes left in the contest NU senior Nicole Lierly made a strong move to get an open shot and sank a floater to tie the game at 41-41.
St. Francis responded with a Queenland put back to go up two. From that point it came down to free throws and the Lady Troubadours hit theirs while the Lady Miners failed to capitalize.
The Lady Miners were led offensively by Lierly with 13 points, Porter added nine and Kaylin Martin scored seven.
After the game McDaniel denied any notion that NU was looking past the No. 13 seed St. Francis, and gave credit to the Lady Troubadours for the win.
“We were ready to play, we were ready to go,” he said. “That’s just a good basketball team.”
On the night the Lady Miners were presented with the SFL championship pennant, and for a team that had high hopes for a deep run in the playoffs, the loss is disappointing, but the season is not, said McDaniel.
“This is the best team I’ve ever coached,” McDaniel, in his sixth season with the varsity squad, said. “They are a group of amazing girls. No way is this season a disappointment.”
NU loses senior starters Lierly, Martin and Orellana as well as seniors Olivia Gulsvig and Emily Smith to graduation, but will return top scorer Porter as well as key contributors DeHart, Erin Selleck, Emma Peterson and Melanie O’Brien next season.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.