What the experience of winning three straight state championships means is impossible to definitively measure. But the fourth quarter of Saturday's boys Division IV state championship game provided a glimpse.
Pahranagat Valley held Virginia City scoreless for more than 7 minutes and rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to claim its fourth consecutive state title with a 48-45 victory at the Orleans Arena.
"That experience can't be replaced," Virginia City coach Dick Lee said. "They're an excellent man defensive team. Honestly, we haven't played against that kind of half-court man defense all year. We anticipated it was going to be tough for us to score. I was encouraged and surprised we scored so easily in the first half."
The Panthers ramped up their defense and kept the Muckers, who were in search of their first state title since 2005, without a point until the 1:29 mark of the fourth. It allowed Austin Poulsen and Pahranagat to more than make up for a sluggish first half.
Pahranagat held the Muckers' Quinton Allen to just three points in the second half after he registered 12 in the first, and Virginia City scored just 14 points in the second half after they tallied 18 in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Poulsen got hot. The senior nailed three of his six 3-pointers in the third period and then sank 5-of-5 free throws in the final 2 minutes of the fourth. Tyler Higbee added 18 points for the Panthers.
"We knew (Poulsen) and (Higbee) were going to do most of the damage, and we lost them a couple times," Lee said. "For the most part, we played pretty good defense. We thought we had the right design tonight, and we did early. They're very well coached and they executed. They knew who needs to shoot the ball and who needs to touch the ball."
Jordan Popiela finished with 16 points before he fouled out for Virginia City, but had just five points in the second half.
"They were on fire in the first half, so we made some adjustments to get up in them more in the second half," Pahranagat coach Brian Higbee said. "The kids just wanted it down the stretch. The fourth quarter really showed what these kids are made of.
"I think our experience showed and I think it really showed down the stretch."