John Franklin was sure when the season began his McQueen team was playoff-caliber and that confidence never wavered, even as recently as 10 days ago when the standings appeared to be the Lancers' worst enemy.
The Lancers rewarded their coach on Friday with a third straight win, 76-64 at Reno High, to secure the High Desert's final playoff spot and end the Huskies' season.
As the No. 4 seed, McQueen will travel to Sierra League champion Douglas on Tuesday. The Lancers had to win five of their last six to get into the postseason.
McQueen continued its strong finish to the regular season with an even stronger start Friday. The Lancers bolted to a 16-2 lead less than four minutes in, powered by Kendall Dewees' 11 points.
Dewees scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, when McQueen (13-14, 8-8) built a 22-point lead.
"We came out with the mindset that we were going to win," said the senior Dewees, who sank five 3-pointers.
Dewees was suspended for the first four games of the season and never really found a consistent rhythm when he returned -- until Friday.
"Kendall is a leader on this team and it was only a matter of time before Kendall showed up, because he hadn't had a game like that all year," Franklin said. "I kept in his ear because I knew if he plays that way, we're going to be a competitive basketball team, and tonight he made us a competitive basketball team and gave us enough of a cushion to get out of here with a win."
Reno's slow start wasn't due to the gravity of the game -- the Huskies would have grabbed the No. 3 seed with a win -- according to its coach. Matt Ochs couldn't remember a game this season his inexperienced team got off to a strong start.
But the Huskies (11-13, 8-8) often finished strong, and they did again Friday. Just not strong enough.
Reno got within single digits with 4:18 left. It was the first time it had been that close in 23:45. Jakob Rolling then cut the deficit to four, 66-62, on a steal and three-point play with 1:09 left. But Kody Eckert, who finished with 19 points, and the Lancers made enough free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
"We just got behind by too much," said Ochs. "Once we started playing the way we're capable we got close. But it wasn't enough."