In front of a packed Albert Ali Gymnasium, Nevada Union did something that no other girls basketball team has done in the last seven years — dethrone Del Oro.
The Lady Miners clinched the 2013 Sierra Foothill League title Thursday night, beating the seven-time reigning champ, 70-67.
“It feels amazing,” NU head coach John McDaniel said. “To win the first SFL title since we’ve come into the league, it’s just so much fun. We knew it was going to be a great game. We didn’t know how it would end up. We knew it was going to be huge and I’m just happy it ended this way.”
The road to the title wasn’t easy as the game came down to the final seconds.
Del Oro, which trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, snagged its first lead of the game with 5 minutes and 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Nevada Union (20-4, 8-1 SFL) responded with a Nicole Lierly bucket followed by a Sydney Porter take to the hoop.
Kaylin Martin then hit a pair of free throws and sank a 3-pointer off an Erin Selleck assist to put NU up 66-58.
Lierly led all Lady Miners with 20 points, Porter added 17 points and Martin closed the night 11 points, six of which came in the final quarter.
Del Oro (16-10, 5-3 SFL) wasn’t about to roll over as it responded with a pair of Stephanie Geyer baskets and a Brianna Ruiz jumper to pull within three at 66-63.
Geyer was a force in the post all night, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. Ruiz, coming off a knee injury and playing in her first league game of the season, scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
With just 1:13 left in the game, NU turned the ball over and Geyer put in a low post bucket to creep within one point at 66-65.
NU failed to score on their next possesion and Del Oro got to the free throw line on theirs. But a pair of free throws clanked off the rim and sophomore Sammy DeHart pulled down the rebound with just 19.3 seconds left on the clock. The sophomore post player was immediate fouled, but was cold as ice, sinking a pair of free throws to put the Lady Miners up three at 68-65.
With 7.9 left on the clock, Del Oro got the ball into Ruiz’s hands. The Lady Miner defense was swarming, but Ruiz got off a 3-point shot and was fouled. The shot missed, but Ruiz went to the line with a chance to tie.
The first free throw missed much to the delight of the home crowd, but last season’s SFL MVP sank the next two to pull within one at 68-67.
NU got the ball into Lierly who was fouled from behind, drawing a intentional foul call from the referee, which gave NU two shots and the ball. Lierly sank 1-of-2. The Lady Miners next inbound went to senior point guard, Martin who ran a few seconds off the clock before getting fouled. Martin sank the first to put NU up 70-67. The next free throw caromed off the rim and into the hands of a Lady Golden Eagle. Del Oro took a half court heave to try and tie it a the buzzer but the shot fell just a bit short and the Lady Miners and Lady Miner fans stormed the court in celebration.
“We’ve been dreaming about this since we were in fourth grade,” Martin said. “It’s a big win and we’re ready to go far in the playoffs.”
The Lady Miners got key contributions from Emma Peterson with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and post players Sarina Orellana, DeHart and Melanie O’Brien, who were tasked with guarding the much bigger Geyer.
“Its definitely a tough matchup,” DeHart said. They’re very very physical, they’re big, but we worked really hard and it made a big difference.”
When the game was over McDaniel said with a smile that he was proud of his team for persevering and that he was especially proud of his seniors.
“We had our seniors in there most the time,” he said. “They’re steady, they don’t lose their heads. We wanted our seniors on the floor, they’ve been here before, they’ve been a league title game and they came out on the wrong end.
McDaniel said it was team effort and this win will be one that the whole team can cherish.
“Im just going to say congratulations,” McDaniel said of what his locker room speech will be. “You girls have worked for this and you deserve it, and you know what this is special and I hope you remember it.”
The Lady Miners have one SFL game left, coming on Tuesday at home against Roseville.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.