For the Dayton Dust Devils, the scene Saturday night at Lawlor Events Center in Reno was a painful one. They were left in stunned silence while the Moapa Valley Pirates celebrated their 3A state boys basketball championship victory at midcourt.
Overhead, the scoreboard told the story -- Moapa Valley 45, Dayton 44 -- a double overtime thriller that was every bit as exciting as the one-point margin of victory suggested. It was a great high school basketball game played in front the largest crowd that turned out during the four days of the NIAA State Championships at Lawlor.
Some of the Dust Devils stood and wiped tears away with their jerseys. Senior guard Gabe Sumsion knelt down and quietly appeared to wipe something off the floor. Coach Rob Streeter was disappointed, but in his eyes, the team was a winner.
"I couldn't be any prouder of the kids. Even if we had made one more basket and won the game, I couldn't have been any prouder," he said. "These kids have come a long way in the last 2Y years. They put in a lot of time in the gym."
The starting five -- seniors Jake Deen, Justin Harris, Nick McQueen and Brian Lahmann, along with junior point guard Matt Bowman -- were part of a team that went 7-9 in Northern 3A play during the 2000-2001 season, Streeter's first as head coach at Dayton. They were part of the improvement the year after when Dayton went 10-6 and missed a trip to state with a 58-53 Northern 3A tournament loss to Fernley.
They came into this season with high expectations.
"One of our team slogans was to make this a banner season," Streeter said. "We wanted to hang a banner in our gym."
The Dust Devils earned that championship banner two weeks ago when they won the Northern 3A division tournament in Yerington. They did it as the No. 4 seed, starting with a 51-40 win over North Tahoe. Next came a 48-35 win over No. 1 seed and tournament host Rite of Passage. The clincher was a 54-47 conquest of No. 2 Bishop Manogue in the finals.
"Our league season was successful," Streeter said. "We were 11-5 and we couldn't quite get over the hump in some big games, but we were in every one of them."
The Dust Devils came into the postseason with a positive mental approach, according to Streeter.
"The kids had a different mindset they didn't have earlier," he said. "We came into the ROP game with a ton of confidence. We just knew we were going to win. Our seniors believed all along that we would do well. If you look at the back of our T-shirts, it says, 'Deserve Victory.' We borrowed that from Rick Pittino. In practice, we want to work harder than anyone. If we do that, then we deserve to win, and the kids bought into that."
So did the entire Dayton Valley because fans showed up in force at the Northern 3A tournament. An estimated 1,500 were in the Spanish Springs High gym Friday night when Dayton defeated Virgin Valley 57-44 in the 3A state opener. And the numbers swelled Saturday at Lawlor.
"We had great crowds all year, and we continued to get support when we got to divisionals," Streeter said. "Then we got to Saturday and had close to 2,000. That was incredible. It was pretty neat to look across Lawlor and see all that maroon and silver jumping up and down."
In the end, the blue-clad Moapa Valley Pirates were the ones jumping up and down celebrating a long-awaited championship. After all, they had settled for a runner-up trophy in each of the previous four years and had lost to Manogue in 2001 and Lowry in 2002 -- both in overtime.
On the other hand, Dayton was playing in its first state tournament since 1999 and for only the third time since 1987. Old Dayton High School won the Northern B division twice -- in 1949 with a 29-26 win over Virginia City and in 1938 with a 26-10 over Smith Valley -- but there were no state titles.
"This was their fifth championship game in a row and our first one," Streeter said. "It was unfortunate we couldn't come out of it with a win, but I guess you've got to learn to walk before you can run."
Streeter remembers his first day on the job at Dayton in the summer of 2000. Crawling would be a more accurate description because only two players showed up for open gym.
Just a couple of months before, Streeter had lost out in his candidacy for the Carson High post. Bruce Barnes got the job at Carson. Streeter filled a vacancy at Dayton left by Ric Garcia. Barnes (with Garcia on his coaching staff) got to the 4A state tournament and came within one basket of reaching the semifinals last week. Streeter and the Dust Devils did reach the finals.
"You know, everything happens for a reason," Streeter said. "I have to congratulate Bruce for the success he's had. Bruce and I talk often and it's interesting how we've mirrored each other. The first year we worked to establish our programs. Last year, we both came within one game of getting to the state tournament and just came up short. Then, this year, we both make state."
Also, Streeter couldn't help but notice former Carson Athletic Director and long-time basketball coach Tom Andreasen sitting at the scorer's table next to the Dayton bench on Saturday night.
"I was glad Tom and his family were there for the game because he's been a mentor to me. Before the first overtime, I went over to Tom and asked him just how many years he had coached. I told him I couldn't take many more like this," Streeter joked in reference to the championship game pressure.
If all goes well, this won't be the last championship game for Streeter and the Dust Devils.
"It's been quite a process," Streeter said. "I'm thankful to the administration at Dayton for taking a chance on a young guy who had no previous experience as a varsity head coach and giving me a free reign in developing the program these last three years."
Bowman is due to return next season. So are Dylan Morris and Adam Diament, who contributed valuable minutes against Moapa Valley, and R.C. Remington, who has put
"Now, the kids have had a little bit of the taste of success and there's some juniors coming back who are hungry to get back and finish the job."
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal