When the high school basketball season started back in November, not one Lowry High School boys basketball player had a minute of varsity experience on the floor.
When the season came to an end this past weekend at the Winnemucca Event Center, the Buckaroos were one game away from reaching the state tournament.
The dream and goal of making it to Las Vegas came up short on Friday night with a 63-18 loss to Elko. Lowry reached the semifinals after beating South Tahoe 52-38 on Thursday night.
“It was a hell of a year,” said LHS coach Chad Peters. “If anyone told me at the beginning of the year in November that this team would be above .500, beat everyone in the North besides Elko and were a game away from state, I would have told you are crazy. I have to say our senior leadership was amazing and what a great group of kids. I know I am probably biased on that. We might not have kids that are tremendous basketball players but we have kids that have tremendous heart. Every team we played talked about how hard we played. It is one of those morale victories.”
Lowry and South Tahoe knew each other well, playing a regular season game in Winnemucca on Feb. 9, with the Buckaroos erasing a double-digit first quarter to win the game.
There would be no need for a big comeback this time, as the Buckaroos used a big second half to pull away from the Vikings.
Senior Zach Fernandez started hot for Lowry scoring the first seven points, including back-to-back 3-point field goals. The Vikings used a late 8-2 run to go in front 9-8 but a late basket by Giovani Sapien gave the Buckaroos a 10-9 lead after eight minutes of play.
Lowry opened up a 20-13 advantage behind six points from Fernandez and baskets by Cal Peters and Marcos Rodriguez. After leading by as many as seven points, the Buckaroos settled for a four point lead at halftime when South Tahoe knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Lowry stretched its advantage to 30-19 in the third quarter after a jump shot by Jordan Bills and back-to-back baskets by Ismael Magana.
The Buckaroos would keep that double figure lead the rest of the night. The advantage grew to 46-31 in the fourth quarter after Fernandez made four free throws.
Fernandez paced Lowry with a career-high 21 points, Peters joined him in double figures with 14 points and Magana finished with six.
Sapien netted five points and Rodriguez, Bills and Iysis Arriola had two points apiece.
It was the 300th win for Peters as the Lowry basketball coach.
“I am just proud of the whole team — 1 through 12 — and how far they came this year. It’s so impressive to me.,” Peters said. “Zach had his career high and I am so proud of him. He is such a good leader and knows what I want. He has been listening to me since he was five. Zach is a great point guard and teammate. For him to get 21 points and go 13-for-16 from the free throw line — that is Zach.”
Lowry ran into a buzzsaw on Friday night in eventual regional champion Elko. The two teams closed out the regular season the weekend before in Elko, as the Indians hit just about every shot it took.
It was the same story in the regional semifinal on Friday night at the Winnemucca Event Center, as it seemed Elko could not miss.
“I actually thought we were playing pretty good defense,” Peters said. “We were getting after the best we could. You have no defense for a double pump, 30-foot shot at the buzzer. You just have to give Elko credit.”
Elko scored the first 12 points of the night, when Arriola stopped the run. The Indians scored the final 12 points of the first quarter to lead 24-2 and added the first nine points of the second quarter when Rodriguez countered with back-to-back baskets for the Buckaroos. The Indians scored the final seven points of the second quarter including a 30-footer at the buzzer.
Rodriguez and Magana each had four points for Lowry, Kaiden Boyles three, Arriola, Sapien and Rodriguez two each and Peters one.
“We knew coming in it was a tall task to stay close with them or even beat them,” said the coach. “We had a great season and I just want to say how awesome our community is in supporting the girls and us. I am proud of what Jesse and the girls are doing. I will always be a Lowry and Winnemucca fan. Our community does it better than anybody else.”
The NIAA 3A State Championships take place this weekend in Las Vegas at the Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.
Elko plays Somerset-Losse at 9 a.m. on Friday and Boulder City plays Fernley at 12:20 p.m. The championship game is set for 11:50 a.m. on Saturday.