OK realistically that likely wasn’t the mindset of the Mustangs as they took the bus ride to the east Sparks school Tuesday, but it might have changed once they arrived at Reed and saw who was dressed for the Northern 4A league crossover game, or better yet, who was not dressed.
The Raiders had six players in uniform, one of which was not sophomore start point guard Gabby Williams, who is nursing a knee injury she aggravated against Reno Friday night.
The Raiders were also without swingman Sierra Hooft, another one of their top three leading scorers, who was sick with the flu. But they still had enough firepower to pull away in the second half en route to a 54-18 triumph after a lackluster first half.
Much like the Indianapolis Colts were not the same after losing Peyton Manning for the season, Reed looked like an entirely different team without its floor general.
Instead of scoring 24 points in the first quarter like it could have been expected against the Mustangs, the Raiders had 24 at the half. And to compound the nervousness some of the Raider faithful was feeling, Reed had allowed 14 to Damonte.
But all became right in the girls basketball world as Reed scored the first 10 points of the second half — helped by back-to-back treys by Tyler Sumpter — and the hosts never looked back.
The 10-0 run doubled the Raiders’ edge to 34-14 with 5:07 on the third-quarter clock.
An Ashley Duke bucket halted the run, but it was also the only basket of the quarter for the Mustangs. Reed closed out the third with seven unanswered, including a Brooke Cervantes driving layup at the buzzer that followed five straight points by Reed senior forward Nyasha LeSure.
Reed enjoyed a 41-16 lead after three quarters of play.
For the second straight quarter, the Raiders allowed two points. Damonte got its only basket of the fourth one minute and a half into the final period and went scoreless the rest of the way.
Reed scored the last 10 points of the game.
Luckily for the home team, it was able to avoid foul trouble or injuries with only one player on its bench.
“I was a little nervous, but I thought if we had to play with four, we would just do a box and go after it. We held our composure and played smart,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper said. “You never know with another team, when they don’t see Gabby, they probably will get excited. I was excited for our girls. They stepped up and played. In the long run, this was the best thing for us because some of them didn’t get to sub out. They have a whole game under their belts, so they’ll be ready for the playoffs.”
Even without Williams, Reed looked poised to roll over the Mustangs, jumping out to a 9-2 lead following a Makaela Moore 3-pointer, less than three minutes into the game.
That momentum quickly vanished as Darby Menghini answered with a 3-pointer and Duke knocked down a pair of free throws, cutting the deficit to 9-7. The Mustangs never got closer than two points though.
LeSure scored the last five points of the first quarter, handing the Raiders a 14-7 lead.
The Raiders pushed the gap to double digits early in the second with three straight points to open the quarter. Damonte was able to get to within five points, 19-14. However, the Blue and Gold tallied the last five of the first half.
While Reed’s offense only scored six more points in the second half than it did in the first, it was the defense that stepped up.
“We talked about confidence and just how we were a step off on defense because we were a little nervous. We talked about how they’re the ones who play against Gabby and Sierra, so if you can guard those guys, you should be fine out there,” Schopper said. “I just wanted them to go out there and play our game because I know some of them were starting their first varsity game, so they were nervous. It kind of showed the first half. The second half I think we came out and played Raider basketball with whoever was on the floor.”
Sumpter led the way for Reed with 16 points, while LeSure added 11. Moore, Cervantes and Tina Vernon had nine, seven and seven points respectively.
Reed (15-2, 13-0 in Northern 4A) is on the road Friday night at McQueen. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.