All good things must come to end, and for the Nevada Union girls basketball team, who impressed all season long, their end came Thursday night.
Facing a suffocating defense and a balanced scoring attack from No. 5 seed McClatchy, the No. 4 seed Lady Miners fell behind in the second quarter and never rallied as they were bounced, 59-44, from the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I playoffs.
“That’s a great basketball team,” Nevada Union head coach John McDaniel said of McClatchy. “Our girls came out and gave it everything they had, but tonight it wasn’t enough. We score 70 something points a game and tonight we barely scored 40, they are a great defensive team.”
The Lady Lions dosed Nevada Union with a bit of their own medicine, playing press defense and trapping at the half court for much of the game.
“They made it hard for us to get into any of our sets,” McDaniel said. “I think the girls felt like they had to do more on every possession, and that takes a mental toll.”
McClatchy (25-3) put a special emphasis on shutting down Nevada Union’s top scorer Sydney Porter, said Lady Lions’ coach Jessica Kunisaki.
“We needed to really focus in on Porter because we knew that she makes it go,” she said. “Our defense was amazing.”
Porter was blanketed much of the night by McClatchy’s Lauren Nubia, but saw several different Lady Lions throughout the game as Kunisaki subbed often to keep players covering Porter fresh.
“We’re lucky because were very deep,” Kunisaki said. “I can sub in confidently whoever I want.”
Porter, who averages 20 points per game, scored 11 points by game’s end, nine of which came in the second half.
“Syd (Porter) is used to being the fastest, quickest player on the court and they rotated girls in on her, they had a great scheme,” McDaniel said.
The Lady Miners struggled to find points elsewhere, as the McClatchy defense challenged every shot.
Emma Peterson led NU in scoring with 12 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Peterson had hit two of her three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but fouled out with about four minutes left.
Both teams struggled to get things going in the beginning as the Lady Lions opened the game on a 7-0 run, only to let NU end the quarter on a 7-0 run.
But McClatchy took the second quarter, 23-9, creating space that they would not relinquish.
The Lady Lions had 10 players score in the game and were led by freshman Jordan Cruz with 12 points. Destiny Lee added 10 points and seven rebounds.
For Nevada Union scoring was hard to come by, but junior Sammy DeHart managed 10 and was a strong defensive presence with six steals. Melanie O’Brien added six and Erin Selleck scored five to go with four assists.
The loss snaps NU’s 16-game winning streak and ties their lowest point output of the season.
The Lady Miners (23-5) close the season as Sierra Foothill League champions and having won a playoff game for the first time since 2009.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better team since I’ve been here,” McDaniel said of his squad. “I’ve seen some great teams in the past, but this might be the best team that I’ve coached so far. Well, it is the best that I’ve coached so far, and last year that was true about them, but this team found a way to take it to the next level. I absolutely love their heart, love their effort, I love the way they play together, this is an amazing group of girls.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.