Lady Wave set sights on state

Fallon senior transfer Maggie O'Flaherty goes up for a shot during practice on Monday.

Fallon senior transfer Maggie O'Flaherty goes up for a shot during practice on Monday.

Staying healthy is the No. 1 priority for any team and it’s no exception for the Fallon girls basketball team.

The Lady Wave are battling through a pair of injuries before the season has even started. All-state guard Ali Tedford (hip) and guard Maggie O’Flaherty (foot), a transfer from North Carolina, are fighting through lingering issues.

Coach Anne Smith, though, is optimistic her duo will be ready to go as the season tips off Tuesday at the High Sierra Winter Classic in Reno.

“I think in the beginning it will be a little rough,” Fallon coach Anne Smith said. “We lost some seniors and girls who didn’t come out. In the end, toward the end of the season, I definitely think we’ll be there.”

Despite the injuries, plus a freak health scare to senior guard Janelica Galera in August, the Lady Wave aims to return to the state tournament for the first time in four years.

They will have the home-court advantage in the regional tournament, but a solid and experienced core returns led by Tedford, Megan McCormick and Galera will be the ones who lead the way.

Adding O’Flaherty’s skills on the wing provides another legitimate threat to bolster the Lady Wave’s offense. Mixing in are junior Kalyn Huckaby and sophomore Zoey Swisher.

Although Tedford is coming off the injury, her play has continued to improve.

“We expect a lot from her,” Smith said. “With the scrimmages we’ve had, she’s more confident with the ball. She goes to the basket and finishes more consistently … and has more command over the floor.”

Tedford, who suffered a torn labrum in her hip last year, underwent surgery, although the diagnosis was not as serious as originally thought. She has rehabilitated and will be eased into action early in the season.

Losing Tedford any significant stretch will hurt the Lady Wave, as she led the team in scoring (9.1 points per game) and assists (2.2 ppg) last season.

“I’ve recovered pretty quickly and am improving every day,” she added. “Our loss to Lowry last year left us a little bitter. This year … is probably the most athletic group that we’ve had.”

O’Flaherty, meanwhile, suffered her injury during the volleyball season, and its nagging nature has left her behind in conditioning. Despite those issues, though, Smith was impressed with her performance at a recent scrimmage in South Tahoe.

The fourth-year coach said O’Flaherty adds a dimension the Lady Wave has been missing for several years. The 5-foot, 11-inch senior can stroke the outside shot and drive to the basket and finish.

“She is a real good shooter from the outside,” Smith said of O’Flaherty. “Has a nice touch on the ball and I think that will help with the sting of losing Gabby (Sharpe). She knows how to finish … that will help us a lot.”

While the perimeter is flush with talent, the frontcourt will be led by McCormick, who average 8.1 ppg and 5.6 rebounds. Joining McCormick, though, is a group of raw with talent, but several who lack varsity experience.

Shelby Smith and Kayla Buckmaster have a knack for rebounding, Miranda Ford adds depth, while Leann Stands and Madison Perazzo are developing.

Stands, who played on the freshmen team last season, provides a tall frame (6 feet) and fills a need inside as Smith looks for another player to step up next to McCormick and fill the void left by Hannah Lindsay.

“Everyone is working rally hard this year and wants to improve,” McCormick said.

Smith also suffered the loss of her coaching staff prior to the season. Assistant Dan Combo stepped down for personal issues, while Nate Waite also opted not to return.

Scrambling for a staff, Smith secured the services of Churchill County High School Principal Kevin Lords and teacher Keith Lund.

Lords previously coached in Elko for several years, while Lund has worked with lower levels of basketball. Smith, though, said each brings a strong knowledge base and perspective to the team.

“Coach Lund … is working with our bigs and has a lot of knowledge,” Smith said. “Coach Lords coached in Elko for a lot of years … so, once again strategy, knowledge of the game and helping with situations.”

As for the league, Smith said she expects a fight for the four Northern Division I-A playoff berths. Defending champ Lowry only graduated two seniors from last year’s club, while perennial powers Elko and Spring Creek are expected to also contend for the league title.

Although Fallon, Lowry, Elko and Spring Creek are state contenders, Smith said South Tahoe is much improved, while Fernley and Truckee will also provide tough challenges.

Fallon’s first taste of navigating the difficult league slate begins with its annual road trip to Elko County. The Lady Wave face Spring Creek on Dec. 12 and Elko on Dec. 13 in two, big early-season games.

Fallon opens the season with four games at the Reno tournament and its first home game is Jan. 1 against Truckee.


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