For the first time in program history, the Sierra Lutheran boys basketball team is headed to the state tournament.
Clinching a state tourney spot came after making to the Class 1A Central-West Regional Tournament final over the past weekend.
“Our work is finally paying off,” said Falcon senior Hunter Lamprecht.
“I guess it means we’re doing something right,” joked fellow senior Teagan Berger. “It’s just finally all being put together and it’s worked out in the end.”
The Falcons notched two wins in the regional tournament over Round Mountain (41-27) and Sage Ridge (42-29) before falling in the regional championship to Mineral County (61-51).
Sierra Lutheran had won 11 contests in a row prior to its loss to the Serpents on Saturday, dating back to its last contest against Mineral County Jan. 18.
Now the Falcons are one of four teams remaining in Class 1A and will be looking for their first state tournament win in school history Thursday at 5:10 p.m. at Wooster High School against Pahranagat Valley (Alamo).
Oddly enough, Sierra Lutheran has already seen two of the other three teams in the state tournament, including their first round opponent – Pahranagat Valley.
The Panthers bested the Falcons Dec. 14 by a final of 53-37, but Sierra Lutheran was without Teagan Berger and lost Makez Berger to an injury in the first half of the contest.
Pahranagat Valley (19-9) put together wins in eight of its final nine games, including winning a regional championship over Owyhee, 46-31, Saturday.
“I think we’re a pretty similar style team to them,” said Sierra Lutheran head coach Ben Walther. “They play mostly man-to-man, a lot of movement. They try to get out in the open court.”
Walther added that along with the Falcons being at full health, he thinks the offensive consistency of Sierra Lutheran has come a long way since their last meeting in mid-December.
“We’ve come a long way with the flow of the game. It looked very disjointed in that first meeting,” Walther said of the Falcons, who shot 26 percent from the floor in their first meeting with Pahrangat Valley.
With plenty of similarities between the two squads, Walther and company plan on studying tape to figure out a game plan to attack any weaknesses the Panthers may have.
Punching their ticket to state
The Falcons said they’ve always had faith they could get to this point of the season, but early on in the year some of that was tested after starting the season 5-6.
Walther had a feeling Sierra Lutheran may have a slow start coming into the year, knowing that several players were adjusting to full-time varsity roles and building chemistry with teammates they hadn’t played alongside the previous year.
“I felt like this team was going to struggle at the beginning until they found their chemistry,” said Walther.
Two season prior, the same group that is state-bound put together an unbeaten season at the junior varsity level and getting that chemistry back came following the Christmas break.
“I knew we had a good chance because this was our team two years ago when we had an undefeated season,” said Berger. “So, I knew we definitely had a really good chance of being here.”
It’s not much of a secret where the Falcons have found a lot of their success this season.
“I would say it’s our team defense,” said junior guard Shane Burkett. “When we played Sage Ridge and they couldn’t get anything on the inside going.”
That’s been a fixture of the Falcon team this season that is allowing an average of 41.75 opponent points per game while poking loose 13.5 steals per contest.
Now with a 20-8 overall record, Walther has continued to push the Falcons to new heights a year after winning their first league title in program history.
With a maximum of two games left in the season, the Falcons are focused on making sure playing in new environments with the added pressure of playing in a state tournament doesn’t impact their game.
Staying with the routines
Lamprecht’s pregame meal is a bag of Doritos, Burkett opts for Skittles candy – neither intend on changing those rituals now.
“I’m going to eat the same food I always eat – a bag of Doritos, but it works. And I haven’t died yet,” Lamprecht said.
“I think it’s staying humble. There are four teams left in our division and we’re one of those so we can’t get too hot-headed about it,” Burkett said.
After playing in the regional tournament at Wooster last season, Walther is hoping to get practice time at the MAC Facility in Carson City and get his squad used to shooting on hoops with more of a backdrop than they would see on their home floor.
“It’s a little thing, but it’s something that could throw you off of a game that could prove crucial,” said Walther.
Should the Falcons prevail Thursday evening, Sierra Lutheran will play at Lawlor Events Center at 5:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of Mineral County and Owyhee for the Class 1A state title.