Ladycats win third state title in four years, rally to beat Lincoln

Dave Maxwell
The White Pine High girls basketball team celebrates winning the state title on Saturday in Reno.

The White Pine High girls basketball team was 10 seconds away from losing the Class 2A girls state championship last Saturday.

Then junior Madison Rick was there for the rescue. She made a three-pointer from the right wing with eight seconds remaining to tie the game and force overtime.

The Ladycats then dominated the extra period 10-5 and took a 44-39 victory over Lincoln County at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.

Lincoln County (25-4), seeking its first championship in 19 years and the fourth time in the finals since 2005, had beaten Battle Mountain 52-42 in the semifinals the night before at Sparks High School to advance to the championship game.

The Lynx were rolling along against White Pine with a 21-14 halftime lead.

Being outrounded badly in the first half, coach Justin Locke said he told the Ladycats girls in the locker room, “We have to go get the ball and not let them have those second chance opportunities. Our biggest adjustment was keeping our composure. We were trying to catch the ball and looking at the basket before we had control. We have a little bit of a height advantage, so we need to make sure we secure the ball out of the rebound.”

And the Ladycats (27-2) did better at that in the second half, plus stepping up their pressure defense, and tied the game after three quarters.

Lincoln County senior guard Brynlee Wadsworth scored seven of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, and helped her team take a 3-point lead with her steady and heady play.

Rick, who had been hampered by a cold much of the weekend, had a lot of trouble under the basket guarded by Lincoln’s Kendra Mathews, missing try after try, finally stepped out to hit the game tying three-pointer for the overtime.

“I was so mad at being bottled up so much,” Rick said later. “I’m not sure how it was that I stepped out to hit the three. Luck maybe, but it’s alright.”

It wasn’t even supposed to be Rick who took the final shot, “Haley Ernest is one of our three-point shooters,” Locke said, “but both she and and Eva (Kingston) were covered well, so Madi did it.”

Strong defense kept Lincoln without a last shot and Wadsworth’s desperation try was not close. Rick finished the game with 14 points and point guard Kingston added 11.

The girls were also 13-for-24 at the foul line.

In the overtime, Locke said, “They (Lincoln) went to a man to man defense then which I thought that was a good thing for we could spread them out and let Eva get to the middle and create some shots for us.”

However, it was Ernest who had the only three-pointer in the overtime.

Kingston gave White Pine a 39-36 lead, but Wadsworth canned a three to tie the game again.

Rick’s close-in shot over Mathews at 1:13 gave White Pine a 41-39 lead. Lily Fullmer and Brittany Kingston closed out the scoring at the foul line.

It is the first time Lincoln and White Pine had played for the state championship since 2005 when the Bobcats won their first state title, and now three of the last four.

As a first-year coach, Locke said he had “great talent and was glad of what they have been able to accomplish, especially the seniors. Nothing on me, it’s all about the girls.”

In the semifinal matchup, Eva Kingston scored 15 points as the Bobcats broke away from a tight 8-6 first quarter to take control of Needles and roll to a 45-29 win. The defense allowed the Mustangs only three points in the second quarter and only 18 points in the second half.

It’s the first time the teams had met in two years and White Pine’s third straight win, however Needles still holds a 7-11 edge in the series between the former league rivals since 2007.

White Pine says goodbye now to Brittany Kingston, Haley Ernest and Lily Fullmer. “Kingston was like a second coach for me out there this year,” said Locke, she was our floor leader. Fullmer is going to be a very hard defensive player to replace. One of the best I’ve ever coached and Haley was a great, great sharpshooter for us and did a great job improving her defense.”

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