Moapa Valley rallies for title

Hayden Cooper didn’t flinch when Moapa Valley’s boys basketball team fell behind by 14 points in the third quarter of the Class 3A state title game.

And his teammate, fellow senior Josh Thompson?

“No, sir,” Thompson said, shaking his head. “Our team will never give up.”

Two of four senior starters for the Pirates, Thompson and Cooper led an emotional rally that will be long remembered in Overton.

Moapa Valley used a 15-0 run as part of a 38-12 surge to end the game for a 68-56 victory over Lowry on Saturday at Orleans Arena.

The Pirates (17-11) captured their ninth state title and first since taking the 3A crown in 2003.

“I don’t think the smile’s ever going to come off my face,” Pirates coach Dallas Larsen said. “We’re going to take down the nets at home since they won’t let us take them down here.”

Late in the third quarter, Sterling Michael Snow hit a jumper from the free-throw line to cap a 13-2 run and give the Buckaroos (17-8) a 44-30 lead.

But Moapa Valley cranked up its press, started forcing turnovers and rattled off a 15-0 spurt that ended with Thompson’s 3-pointer from the left wing for a 45-44 Pirates lead.

“Our press we hadn’t used all game,” Larsen said. “We felt it was time to go to a little more pressure. We couldn’t just sit back and let them do what they wanted to.”

Lowry took a 47-45 lead, but Thompson fed Dakota Watters for a 3-pointer that gave Moapa Valley a 50-47 cushion. The Pirates led the rest of the way.

Cooper scored four straight points to put Moapa Valley up 57-49 with less than three minutes left before exiting to chants of “Cooooop” from Pirates fans.

“We never gave up. We knew we had it in us,” Cooper said. “We just started playing defense and running the ball, and we went from there. The best part was, we all played team defense.”

Thompson led Moapa Valley with 25 points, four assists and five steals. Cooper tallied 23 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Watters supplied 10 points and six steals for the Pirates, who scored 33 points off 22 turnovers by Lowry.

Snow and Sean Milikan scored 14 points each for the Buckaroos, and teammate Will Thacker had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Moapa Valley is known as a football school, having won two of the past four 3A state titles. Larsen said winning a basketball championship is a breakthrough for the school.

“Man, it’s fun to have basketball back on the map again,” he said.

Thompson, who has won the past two 3A state cross country titles, relished the feeling of sharing a team title Saturday.

“It’s really cool because I couldn’t be there with them in football,” said Thompson, one of eight seniors for the Pirates. “Being able to share it with them in basketball means a lot to me.”

Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.

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