RENO — Lincoln County freshman guard Dantley Walker did his job in the first half against Needles.
Then Kevin Hannig and Eric Rippetoe took over.
Hannig and Rippetoe combined for 20 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Lynx to a 78-69 victory in the Class 2A boys state basketball final Saturday at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center.
With Needles playing tight defense against Walker, who scored 36 points against Rite of Passage in the semifinals, the 6-foot-2-inch Hannig (27 points) and 6-4 Rippetoe (19) constantly drove the lane against the Mustangs, using their bodies well in the paint.
They combined to hit 9 of 12 free throws in the final quarter.
“(Walker) came out like he always does — with confidence — and got us going,” coach Mike Wood said. “They really keyed on him in the second half, and I thought (Hannig) really stepped up then.”
Not just on offense, though.
After Mustangs forward Darra Russell made three 3-pointers in the first quarter against Lincoln County’s zone defense, the Lynx switched to man-to-man. Hannig picked up Russell, holding him scoreless in the second quarter.
Though Russell scored 25 points, Hannig did what he wanted — making up for two state final losses to The Meadows in the last three years.
“My defensive assignment all year has been to shut down the best player — but Darra Russell is a hell of a player,” Hannig said. “Man, he’s hard to stop.
“But I wasn’t letting this one get away from me.”
Walker finished with 13 points.
Forcing turnover after turnover, collecting rebound after rebound, Needles was simply too good during a first-quarter stretch against Lincoln County in the Class 2A girls final.
The Mustangs used that six-minute stretch to take a 17-2 lead and eventually beat the Lynx, 63-39. Forward Marinda Brackett keyed the run, scoring seven of her 14 points.
But it was the rebounding of Louise Solomon that gave Needles so many opportunities. Solomon grabbed six boards in the first quarter and 13 for the game, and added 14 points.
“If you’re a guard and you box her out, she’s going to go up and get it before it gets to you,” Needles coach Billy Powell said. “If you’re a post player and you stand next to her and don’t get your butt on her, she’s coming down with (the ball).”
The Mustangs played with confidence throughout the game, coming in with 19 straight wins. But in winning their 20th straight, and fourth of the season over Lincoln County, Needles overcame two consecutive losses in the state finals.
“We were confident, but on the other hand, it was even more incentive to win. If we lost, it would be twice as bad because we’d already beaten them,” Solomon said. “I was just more relieved.”