Las Vegas didn’t have the best night at the free-throw line.
But with the game on the line, the Wildcats made the needed foul shots to win the Class 4A girls basketball state championship.
Las Vegas junior point guard Layla Faught made two free throws with 3.9 seconds left, and the Wildcats defeated Desert Pines 51-49 Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Desert Pines’ Tatianna Wilder was called for an illegal screen on an inbounds pass to give Faught the chance to win the game.
“We pride ourselves on being prepared,” Las Vegas coach La Shondra Rayford said. “Desert Pines fought hard. They were taking it to us.”
Faught led Las Vegas (21-8) with 25 points, and senior forward Kayla Terry scored 16. It’s the second state title for Las Vegas and the first since 1978.
“I tell my girls all the time, it’s not supposed to be easy. This is a state championship,” Rayford said. “(Desert Pines) wanted it as much as we wanted it, and you have to work for it. That’s what we did coming down the stretch.”
A 3-pointer from Wilder early in the third quarter gave Desert Pines (25-4) a double-digit lead, 33-22. The Jaguars led by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter.
Las Vegas didn’t go away easily. The Wildcats slowly chipped away at the double-digit deficit in the fourth. Faught and Terry attacked the basket to do most of their damage.
Las Vegas outscored Desert Pines 20-8 in the fourth quarter, making just enough free throws to rally from behind.
The Wildcats made 15 of 32 free throws before Faught stepped to the line. Despite the team’s struggles at the line, Rayford said she was confident Faught would deliver.
Rayford said at practice Thursday, the Wildcats were in a similar situation. Rayford said they put four seconds on the clock, and Faught went to the free-throw line for two shots to tie or win the game.
She missed both of them. Rayford said Faught turned to her and said that she never wanted to be in a situation like that again.
“I knew (Faught) was going to make it. … And here we are two days later and she nailed them,” Rayford said. “It’s from practice. We practice situations like this.”
Terry and Vernonie Newson helped lead Las Vegas early. The Wildcats worked the ball inside to establish an early lead.
But Las Vegas went scoreless the final two minutes of the quarter and only led 14-12 entering the second.
Desert Pines took the lead in the second quarter on a 7-0 run and held Las Vegas to three points in the final 5:40 before halftime. The Jaguars led 28-22 at the break.
Wilder and sophomore Trista Mabry each scored 10 points for Desert Pines.
“This is so amazing,” Rayford said. “We have an amazing community and amazing support system. This is for all of Las Vegas High School. Everybody showed out and did their thing for us.”