Stellar defense can’t save Las Vegas in Basic tournament title game

The result wasn’t what Las Vegas High girls basketball coach Jen Brown had hoped for on Wednesday.

The effort, though, was far better than the Wildcats had shown in some early games this season and gave Las Vegas plenty of reason for optimism once the team returns to Northeast League play.

The Wildcats played arguably their best defensive game of the season but fell to San Clemente (Calif.) 47-36 in the championship game of the Lady Wolves Holiday Classic at Basic.

“This was huge for our growth as a team,” Brown said. “We needed to start to come together, and we saw that today.”

The Tritons averaged 67.3 points per game in their first three games of the tournament and had scored more than 60 points in all three.

But Las Vegas (6-4) changed its defense, opting away from its usual 2-3 zone set and playing more man-to-man. There was no arguing with the results.

San Clemente made just 13 of 44 shots and committed 23 turnovers.

“We just put this in,” Brown said. “We’ve been running the 2-3 most of the year, and we decided to change things up. That was the best we’ve played on defense all year.”

It was a formula that probably should have resulted in a victory, if not for the Wildcats’ inability to make shots from the field.

After hitting a paltry 6 of 28 shots in the first half, the Wildcats were even colder in the second half, missing their first 13 shots before Matti Ventling’s scoop layup with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter.

Layups, set shots, jumpers, 3-pointers — nothing seemed to fall for Las Vegas, which finished 11 of 59 from the field.

“It was not our game for shooting,” Brown said. “If any of our shots would have fallen, this would have been a different game.”

Ventling led the way with 19 points on 6-for-22 shooting. Shomari Harris had 12 points, and Tonnisha Thomas grabbed 10 rebounds for Las Vegas.

Alexa Johnson led the Tritons with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and teammate Frankie Pinto scored 17 points. Jessica DeGree came off the bench to grab 18 rebounds, 10 of those on the offensive end. DeGree had nine rebounds in the third quarter.

Las Vegas went 3-1 in the tournament, downing Northeast rival Rancho in the opener, then Basic and Marina (Calif.)

“It was just great for us. It really gives us confidence,” Brown said. “We saw some teams and players here that we will see during the season, and this gives us a boost going back into league play.”

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5230.

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