LAS VEGAS — A 40-year drought ended for the Fallon Lady Wave girls’ basketball team Saturday.
Led by Leta and Leilani Otuafi and Faith Cornmesser, the Lady Wave, 26-3, knocked off Lowry, 54-38, at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion to win the school’s first Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association basketball championship. Prior to the NIAA, Fallon won 10 titles between 1921-1931.
It was the fourth time this season that Fallon defeated Lowry. The Lady Wave swept Lowry in the regular season, and then beat the Buckaroos in the regional and state finals.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said. “I’m still not sure it’s over. I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep.
“I knew it was going to be a tough day. Lowry is well-coached. I knew we were going to be in a dogfight. They had a good plan. They used that 2-3 zone. Once we got into our offensive rhythm, we did OK.”
The pressure the Lady Wave put on Lowry was impressive. Lowry turned the ball over 23 times, leading to 34 points.
“Our defense is always better than our offense,” said senior Zoey Swisher, who concluded her career in great fashion with five points and another sterling defensive effort. “That is something we pride ourselves on. Defense wins championships.”
Fallon’s defense gave up an early 3-pointer and then forced six straight Lowry turnovers (without a shot). The Wave led 12-3, and Lowry never got closer than four (20-16 5:30 left in first half) the rest of the way.
Cornmesser (11 points) had four points in the early surge as did Leta Otuafi, who finished with 14. Leilani Otuafi (10 points) and Swisher added a basket apiece.
“That (early surge) was huge,” Smith said. “We knew we had to jump out (on them) right away.”
Lowry went to the zone, and Fallon struggled for the rest of the first quarter. Smith made some adjustments, and it was enough to keep Lowry at bay.
Armed with a 30-21 lead after three, the Lady Wave put the game out of reach with a 15-2 run over the final six minutes to make it 46-26.
Caitlyn Welch started the surge with a 3-pointer, Cornmesser added two free throws, Leta Otuafi scored in the key and Leilani Otuafi added a free throw to make it 39-24. After a Lowry basket, Leta Otuafi scored and Cornmesser finished off the quarter with a basket and three-point play.
Fallon scored the first two baskets of the final quarter to make it 50-26. The Bucks were done.
When the Fallon team was introduced in the post-game ceremony, the biggest round of applause went to Swisher, the team’s only senior. She was truly an unsung hero.
When approached by reporters, she was hanging onto the championship trophy for dear life. It was a truly fitting way to end her high school career.
“It feels awesome,” she said. “What we’ve been .I’ve been working for four years. We took care of all the little details.”
Cornmesser said the team wanted to send their senior teammate out a winner.
“Zoey has worked really hard,” Cornmesser said. “Do it for Zoey is what we’ve been saying all season.”
Smith said the diminutive guard will be missed.
“What a great way (for her to leave),” the Fallon coach said. “Zoey accepted her role. She knew she wasn’t going to be a big offensive player on the floor. She played defense and shut people down, and she did that all season.
“She is going to be hard to replace. She was the heart and soul of this team.”