CARSON – Reno wasn’t even supposed to be here. So, it had nothing to lose.
Nine seniors graduated from last year’s team that fell in the regional title game to Carson. Few expected the Huskies to return to the same game just one year later. Yet, that’s exactly where Matt Ochs’ team found itself on Saturday night, this time against Bishop Manogue.
And this time, the Huskies ended the night cutting down the nets. Reno pulled away from Bishop Manogue late for a 62-51 win, claiming its second regional title in four years (2014 against Spanish Springs).
“Today, we had a team brunch, and all those guys (last year’s seniors) came back,” Reno coach Matt Ochs said. “It’s been a special week for us.
“I’ve been telling them all week, not many people expected us to get here. So, we were playing with house money really.”
Both Reno and Bishop Manogue picked up emotional semifinal wins on Thursday. Reno overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Galena on a Drew Rippingham last-second shot. Bishop Manogue blew a 12-point lead in the final 90 seconds to Spanish Springs only for Aidan Cantwell to hit the game-winner with four ticks left.
It appeared Saturday’s contest was going to follow a similar trajectory.
The Huskies led by 15 late in the third, 42-27, then the Miners went on a run. Three and-ones early in the fourth helped pull Manogue within 45-40 at the five-minute mark.
The Miners snuck no closer.
“Hats off to them. They flat out beat us,” Bishop Manogue coach Moe Golshani said. “They made it tough for us to get good shots and they made a lot of big, big shots as we made a push towards them.”
Manogue remained within 52-45 in the waning minutes. Reno answered with six straight points (four at the free throw line) to put the game away.
Senior Christian Chamberlain led Reno with 16 points in the win. He was followed closely by Rippingham (15 points) and Tommy Challis (14 points).
Gabe Bansuelo and Kolton Frugoli both scored 16 points for the Miners, but senior leading scorer Aidan Cantwell was held to seven.
“He (Cantwell) is a very good, very good player and we did a good job on him tonight,” Ochs said.
Bishop Manogue, which ended the season with a 20-10 overall record, grabbed its only lead of the night early in the second, 15-14. Reno quickly regained control with an 8-0 burst and took a 28-19 lead to the locker room.
With the win, Reno (22-6) punched its ticket to next week’s state tournament at Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV.
The Huskies will open with either Sunrise champ, Coronado, or Sunset champ, Bishop Gorman, on Thursday depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s play-in game between Foothill and Clark.
“(We’re going to) do the same thing we’ve done all year,” Ochs said. “Just play really, really hard and try to make it a game. It’s a business trip for us and we’re just going to enjoy the moment.”