“First off, mission accomplished,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “I’m proud of the kids for winning the basketball game. I don’t care how we did it. That was the goal. We had to win the game and we did. So I’m proud of our team for going out there and getting the win like we needed. That being said, it wasn’t our best effort tonight and probably not the quality of basketball that its going to get it done in the postseason. We have a long ways to go in the next few days.”
The Panthers didn’t just hand Reed the No.2 spot. They battled the Raiders down to the final seconds of the game.
After the first quarter, Reed had grabbed a 16-12 lead. Jumping out of the gates in the second, the Raiders scored the first nine points of the quarter en route to a 13-3 burst that put them ahead 29-15 with just under four minutes until the intermission.
That is when North Valleys began giving the Blue and Gold headaches, stringing together a 15-4 run that cut the Raider advantage to three points with the score at 33-30. A buzzer-beater from RHS guard Ty Shepard closed the first half with the scoreboard reading 35-30.
Returning to the court, the Panthers cut the lead back down to three halfway through the third quarter on a layup from sophomore forward Jalil Walker, bringing the score to 46-43. A short 6-3 spurt from the Raiders, keyed by a pair of layups from Trae Wells, doubled the Raiders lead to 52-46 with just over a minute remaining in the quarter. A three-pointer from freshman guard Jamel Ramos at the horn kept the edge at six-points and Reed went into the final quarter, holding a 57-51 lead.
Still, the visitors slowly chipped away at the advantage. Capitalizing on missed layups and free throws by the Raiders, North Valleys little by little crawled back into contention.
A trey from guard Jessy Lawson cut the deficit to three with 3:17 to play. On the ensuing inbound sequence, a steal and spinning layup from Mason Blake brought the score to 64-63 and placed the Panthers within a basket of taking their first lead since the opening minutes of the contest.
But Reed refused to let the victory slip away.
Two free-throws and a triple from Reed guard Dylan McKenzie followed by a fast-break layup from A.J. Silva, gave the Raiders seven unanswered and pushed the lead to 71-63 with just over two minutes remaining.
The Panthers responded with three buckets in a row of their own, making it a one-possession game again. With 0:43 on the clock, not enough time remained for the comeback upset bid as the Raiders sealed the victory with free throws down the stretch and saved their HDL No. 2 seed.
For the Blue and Gold, assuring themselves an opening round game in front of Raider Nation was of key importance.
“It was big,” Hall said. “Everyone is comfortable at home, including us. Throughout the year, we’ve shot the ball better at home. Generally we’ve played better at home, so it is big. We’re excited about that, but at the end of the day we have to go beat some good teams no matter where we play them. The kids will be ready.”
On senior night, the Raiders were led by a pair of veterans as Kyle Ross dropped in a team-high 25 points and McKenzie added 18 points of his own.
North Valleys (3-19, 3-13) was led by a game-high 27 points from senior guard Gled Bautista. Walker also chipped in with 20 points.
Now turning its focus on the playoffs, Reed will host Damonte Ranch, the Sierra League’s third seed, which it beat 80-66 at the end of January.
“We played them two weeks ago and it seems like it was an eternity ago,” Hall said. “They’re a very good team. They were missing one of their star players that game so we have pretty much thrown that out the window. We’re both 0-0 and it’s a whole new game. All that stuff doesn’t really matter. It’s about what happens on Wednesday.”
The Raiders will have to address some key areas in order to keep their chase of a championship alive.
“With the way we play, there’s going to be runs on both sides, but we’d like to prevent those big, double-digit runs,” Hall said. “There’s a lot to address. Defensively, we just have to be more solid. We have to play more as a unit. We have to rebound the ball better.
“Offensively, we have to get better possessions. We have a lot to look at but I’m confident that the kids will be ready to go. We’re going to watch the film and point some things out to the kids. We have to stop these big runs because now it’s either you win or you go home. The kids know it and I think they’re going to come ready tomorrow to get better.”
- GIRLS -
The Reed girls basketball team closed out its regular season with perfection, a dominating 68-22 victory over visiting North Valleys Friday night, capping off an undefeated 16-0 record in High Desert League play.
Senior night started off slow for the Raiders as North Valleys took an early 4-2 lead, but the two-point edge would be the highlight of the night for the Panthers as Reed shook its jitters and found its game.
“With senior night, there’s some emotion to the start of the game because they’re excited for their last game at home,” Reed coach Sara Schopper said. “I think that might have been the reason for the slow start, but I think we came back out and played well. It took a few minutes but we got into our rhythm.”
Fittingly it was Raider seniors Cori Gammon, Sierra Hooft and Nyasha LeSure who took over the game.
Keyed by seven points from Hooft, the Blue and Gold scored nine straight to grab an 11-4 advantage and never look back.
After a bucket by North Valleys interrupted the Reed run, the three Reed seniors strung together a 10-0 spurt to end the opening quarter with their lead at 21-6.
More of the same followed for Reed, an 11-2 burst, again tallied by the three seniors, kicked off the second quarter, making the deficit 32-8 with 3:08 left until halftime. The Raiders weren’t done pouring it on, closing out the first half with 11 unanswered to leave the scoreboard reading 43-11 in favor of Reed.
With a 32-point advantage and the game in hand, the Blue and Gold continued to add to its lead and cruise to completing its perfect season.
Halfway through the third, Reed pushed its edge to 53-17 before sophomore guard Gabby Williams glided through the lane for a layup to close the quarter with the score at 58-19. For Schopper, watching Williams slice through the opposing defense was a pleasant scene.
“That was a relief to see. This is kind of Gabby’s first game of actually playing to her talent since her injury. I even said ‘I don’t know how you got through there.’ The thing I’m excited about with Gabby is her passing. She’s seeing the floor so well. She’s not trying to dribble coast-to-coast. She’s actually using her teammates and she makes everyone a little bit quicker now because she opens up the floor. Some of the passes I don’t even know how she sees them.”
The fourth quarter opened with 10 straight points from the Raiders, leading to the 68-22 final.
Hooft and LeSure led Reed on the night, both tallying a game-high 23 points.
“You can’t ask for a better senior night,” Schopper said. “They both had 23. It doesn’t get better than that, especially for those two. Four-year varsity players, that’s special. I was very proud of them. They went out there and played well tonight.”
Gammon added nine points in the winning effort. The Blue and Gold shot 29-of-57 (50.9 percent) from the field.
No North Valleys (9-15, 4-12) player reached double figures in scoring while the visitors were 9-of-46 (19.6 percent).
The Raiders out-rebounded the Panthers 35-20.
For Reed (18-2, 16-0) the unblemished season is already in the past as it will now open the playoffs against Douglas, the Sierra Leagues No. 4 seed, on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“This is where we expected to be,” Schopper said. “We’ve accomplished one goal, and like I told them, tomorrow starts a whole new season and a new mentality where 16-0 means nothing. We have to get to work and I think they’re ready. Now it’s time to prove exactly what kind of a team we are.”