By Garrett Estrada

Ely Times Staff Writer

The White Pine High girls basketball team started strong but ultimately couldn’t maintain the pace against Pershing County in their 49-37 loss on Feb. 22 in the first round of the Division III Northern League tournament in Battle Mountain. After jumping out to a three-point lead by halftime, the Ladycats struggled to maintain the Mustangs’ hot shooters.

Coach Krystal Smith said she was happy with the team’s first-half defense but their season-long struggle with second half slumps reared its ugly head again.

“It was just the story of our season. We were outscored 11-4 in the third quarter. It wasn’t any better in the fourth quarter,” Smith said.

The Ladycats had to deal with a tough matchup under the hoop against the league’s most valuable player Melissa Gonzalez. After she ripped the team for 27 points in their meeting on Feb. 7, Smith decided to go for the double team on Gonzalez’s strong post presence.

“[Gonzalez] has had some pretty big games against us. We held her to just 14 points, which was one of our goals for the weekend,” Smith said.

But with two Ladycat players on the Mustang’s best player, it left the door wide open for Pershing’s point guard Hannah McCurley to step up and score big.

“McCurley ended up scoring 21 on us, including four three-pointers. It ended up being the difference,” Smith said.

McCurley had only averaged seven points per game during the regular season against the Ladycats, according to the coach.

Though the season ended earlier than she would have liked for the Ladycats, Smith said the accomplishments and hard work of her team over the regular season were plenty for her to be proud of. The relatively young team finished the regular season in third place in conference, despite losing the top two scorers from the previous season.

The team will say goodbye to their seniors, Alli Huntington, Amanda Allred and Madison Collins. Smith had nothing but glowing things to say about each of her seniors after they played their last high school basketball game.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without them. We hope that our younger kids will learn from their leadership abilities and the desire and passion that they play with,” Smith said.

Of the team’s seven returning players, sophomore Debra Kingston should help provide the offense the team needs going into next season. She averaged double-digit scoring through the regular season.