Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 | midnight
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview this weekend's state basketball tournament. They disagree on whether Eldorado or Sierra Vista will win the play-in game, but see the same outcome regardless.
The fate of two seasons came down to one loose ball.
With three seconds left in Tuesday’s state tournament play-in game at Del Sol High, Eldorado trailed Sierra Vista by one with Daquon Thrower at the free-throw line shooting his second attempt. Thrower, who swished the first free throw, clanked the shot off the back iron.
Teammate D.J. Billingsley came up with the ball after a brief scramble right below the basket. But Sierra Vista’s Dallin Molina stepped up and contested Billingsley’s put back as the buzzer sounded to send the Mountain Lions to Nevada high school basketball’s version of the Final Four. Sierra Vista 55, Eldorado 54.
“Dallin came out of nowhere to get a piece of it and save the game for us,” Sierra Vista coach Kent Johnson said. “He saved state for us.”
Sierra Vista advanced to the state tournament for the first time ever. It will take on Canyon Springs at 4:40 p.m. Thursday at the Orleans Arena.
“It’s what we’ve wanted since Day 1,” Molina said. “It feels great to have an opportunity to beat Canyon Springs and then play Gorman for the fourth time. Fourth time is a charm.”
It makes sense if Molina had some extra confidence after the Eldorado victory. He had one of the best performances of his career in the biggest game in school history.
Molina scored a team-high 16 points to go with eight rebounds. He scored eight points in the first quarter, mostly off of pick-and-rolls with teammate Viko Noma’aea, as the Mountain Lions built a quick 19-9 lead.
“They had no answer for him running pick-and-rolls and posting up and moving,” Johnson said. “He was in control and in the zone.”
Eldorado came back and tied the game at 28 by halftime. Led by 15 points from Thrower and a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds from Curtis Stewart, the Sundevils were ahead for stretches in both the third and fourth quarter.
Thrower made a 3-pointer with four minutes remaining to give Eldorado a 48-45 lead. Sierra Vista regained the advantage at 51-48 but went 2-for-7 from the free-throw line in the final 1:30.
“If I had hair, it would be gray and/or gone,” Johnson jokingly said. “We weren’t able to put the game out of reach.”
Noma’aea — who had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds — did convert a crucial free-throw with 12 seconds remaining after missing the front end to make it a two-point game.
Still, that meant Thrower could send the game to overtime by making both of his freebies. The worst case scenario emerged when the Sundevils corralled the rebound and had a shot to win, but Molina came to the rescue.
“It was like my life flashed before my eyes at the end,” Molina said. “But I had enough energy to contest it and luckily I got it.”
Gorman girls march to state
Bishop Gorman will be the only school with both its boys and girls team at the state tournament.
Gorman plays Liberty at 3 p.m. Thursday followed by Centennial taking on Reed at 6:20 p.m. The Gaels are the defending state champions.