Three Up, Three Down: Dot-on-map schools not afraid to flaunt innocence

There is a quaintness, an innocence, a satin-warmup-jacket, canvas-basketball-sneaker naivete about watching the dots on the Nevada map decide their high school state basketball championships at Orleans Arena on Saturday that one doesn’t necessarily get when the big and haughty schools from Las Vegas and Reno decide theirs on Friday night.

For instance, very few of the players sport tattoos, and very few of their girlfriends display cleavage or wear abundant makeup. Not that there is anything wrong with those things. But the kids representing the dot-on-the-map towns seem to stay kids a bit longer than their contemporaries from the cities.

Nothing wrong with that, either.

Watching the dots on the map hoop it up at The Orleans sort of reminds one of “Hoosiers,” with the exception that none of the players was named Ollie, and none of the assistant coaches appeared to be a recovering alcoholic.

The most damning thing one could say about the appearances of the coaches on the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s championship Saturday is that the brain trust of the Class 3A champion Moapa Valley boys team was dressed like quintuplets: matching blue oxford shirts, matching yellow ties, matching khaki trousers. All five of ’em. When they stood together for a timeout, they looked like a Gap commercial.

Kids ran, kids jumped, kids made long 3-point shots, kids missed free throws. Kids pressed like the UCLA teams of yesteryear; kids slowed ’em down and spread ’em out, like Princeton. When it was over, some kids cried tears of joy. Other kids wept tears of sorrow. None of the kids ran the picket fence play, although that would have been very cool.

Nine kids painted their chests with blue and white paint and spelled out L-A-D-Y-C-A-T-S in support of the White Pine girls, who lost the 2A championship game to Pershing County, 67-47. The ninth kid was the exclamation point.

These nine kids were the White Pine boys basketball team. Had it been the soccer team, it might have been an ellipsis instead of an exclamation point.

I noticed one of the injured Lady Cats was wearing hot pink high heels as she took her seat on the bench. She looked conspicuously out of place.

When the second half began, Erica Trujillo had removed her hot pink high heels. She was cheering on her teammates in her bare feet. She looked much more comfortable this way.

Her hot pink high heels were tucked under a chair at the end of the bench, next to an empty Gatorade bottle.

THREE UP

■ During its 51-37 victory over Virgin Valley in the girls 3A final, Spring Creek went into a spread offense … and held the ball … from 3:48 to go … until 1:52 to go … without a single whistle … being blown. The last time … I saw that … Phil Ford … was a junior … at North Carolina.

■ Officials Rich Martinez, Herb Rafuse and Wally Wahlstrom called a grand total of one foul during the first quarter of the boys 3A final between Moapa Valley and Lowry. They got totally whistle-happy in the second quarter, calling two fouls. Only regret: Mountain West Conference coordinator of basketball officials Bobby Dibler wasn’t there to see it.

■ UNLV recruit Dantley Walker of Lincoln County was introduced to the crowd before the boys 2A title game. The state’s all-time scoring leader who scored 73 points against Agassi Prep soon will depart on a two-year mission for the Mormon church. After that he’ll start his college hitch, when Rebels fans will expect him to be Jimmy Chitwood and Jimmer Fredette rolled into one.

THREE DOWN

■ Before each title game and again at halftime, one of the NIAA officials presented a plaque to one of the smart kids representing one of the basketball dots on the map, who in turn was representing  his or her teammates with a cumulative 3.78 grade-point average. While this was happening, the public address announcer said the NIAA considers these academic accomplishments just as important as the state championships. Nobody really seemed to buy it, though.

■ Two media timeouts per 16-minute half of an Internet-only broadcast seems a bit much, especially on a day when there are six Internet-only broadcasts. Unless, of course, those commercials featuring the E*TRADE babies have made their way to the Internet-only broadcasts. Then, and only then, would riding a dog like it’s a small horse not be frowned upon in this establishment.

■ Granted, it would be a slight pain in the basketball shorts to replace the nets after each of the games so the champions could have the pleasure of cutting them down, one-shining-moment style. It also would cost the NIAA $23.65 (or $4.73 per Spalding all-weather basketball net on Amazon.com) to replace five nets. Because the West Coast Conference has called “next” on Orleans Arena (its tournament begins Friday), WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich can pay for the sixth one.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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