In front of a packed Albert Ali Gymnasium the Nevada Union girls basketball team walloped Sheldon, 77-47, to advance in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I playoffs.
“I think we flat out wanted it,” senior Melanie O’Brien said. “At halftime we were only up by (four) points and we brought the passion to win that game. The seniors especially came out with that fire.”
The Lady Miners (23-4) turned a close game at halftime into a blowout by adjusting their defense and forcing Sheldon to take outside shots.
“We went from man-to-man and played a 1-3-1 trap,” NU head coach John McDaniel said. “They had a hard time adjusting because they looked to attack the rim. Against the zone we were able to close in on it.”
Sheldon’s attacking style of basketball put NU into foul trouble early with O’Brien and Sydney Porter, the team’s leading scorer, notching three fouls each in the first half.
“They had a good game plan,” McDaniel said. “It’s the playoffs. They were going hard, they wanted this win, it’s a different level and we better get used to it.”
O’Brien still managed to score eight of her 12 points in the first half.
Porter scored seven points, including two 3-pointers in the first quarter before being called for her third. She saw limited action the remainder of the first half.
With the early foul trouble NU leaned on its role players and reserves to maintain the lead.
“The bench was huge and has gotten more confident throughout the year,” McDaniel said. “Grace Paye has improved this year, we got good minutes from Grace, good minutes from Katie (Johnson) and everyone off the bench.”
The Lady Miners held a 30-26 edge at halftime, but were just getting started.
Senior point guard Erin Selleck, who finished with eight points, six assists and four steals, got the Lady Miners started with an and-1 layup to push NU’s lead to seven. Then Porter and junior post player Sammy DeHart started to warm up.
Porter began attacking the basket scoring from close or getting fouled along the way. Porter scored 16 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, hitting 11-of-14 free throws for the game. Porter also had five steals, often sparking a subsequent fast break.
DeHart started hitting 3-pointers to draw the Sheldon defenders out and open up more lanes for Porter. DeHart finished with 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half. DeHart also had a team-high six rebounds to go with five assists and three steals.
At the end of the third quarter the Lady Miners had turned a four-point lead into a 19-point advantage.
Nevada Union did not let up in the fourth, opening with a 15-4 run, getting points from Johnson, DeHart, Porter and O’Brien.
With about two minutes remaining in the game benches were emptied and the near capacity home crowd reveled in the victory.
“We wanted to break that streak of getting knocked out in the first round,” O’Brien said. “We wanted to keep going and with all of us working together it happened.”
Tuesday’s win is the first time since 2009 that the Lady Miners have won a playoff game.
“Incredible,” McDaniel said of getting the playoff win. “It feels great. A monkey off my back.”
Leading the Lady Huskies (15-14) was Janae Hair with 13 points, and Jzane’ Cavalli-Money with 10.
For NU, 10-of-12 roster players scored with Emma Peterson scoring seven points, Paye with five, Aycee Willis with three, Callie Kraus scored two, Johnson had two, and Rose Lavulo with one.
The Lady Miners will now host No. 5 seed McClatchy at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Lady Lions (24-3) beat St. Francis 57-33 Tuesday.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.