Esteban Vidrio shoots past the opposing team at a JV game hosted by Pershing County.
Esteban Vidrio shoots past the opposing team at a JV game hosted by Pershing County.
It was the dead of the winter of 2020.

Nobody had heard of the coronavirus yet, but everyone at PCHS knew about Incline JV’s 3-point percentage rate. 

The Pershing County JV played in a 3-2 zone, hoping to prevent some of Incline’s perimeter shots.

Even with the home court advantage, it was rough going for the Mustangs. They kept the game close in the first period, but the Highlanders pulled out their secret sauce.

“Second period they threw a press on us which had been our Achilles Heel all season,” said Coach Jesse Canchola. “We started to turn the ball over, and the game slowly got out of reach.” 

Going into the fourth quarter, the Mustangs trailed 54-13, but that’s not what Coach Canchola saw when he looked at the scoreboard.

“I told them that starting fourth period, the score was zero-zero,” he said. “Let’s win an eight-minute game.”

And that’s what they did. The Mustangs kept the pre – COVID home crowd on the edge of their seats until the final buzzer. 

“Jordan Gentry got many looks in the high post,” said Canchola. “Blake Barter hit a 3-pointer and made some great hustle plays. We saw good play from everyone.”

The Mustangs won the last eight minutes, 7-4. The scoreboard flashed the final score, 58–20.

It was a 38-point loss for the boys in red and white, but they walked off the court smiling and patting each other on the back.

“I told them, ‘See! We can win,” said Canchola. “Now we just have to win another period, and another and we’ll start seeing some wins.’” 

He observed that the 2019-2020 JV Mustangs had only six-or seven years of basketball experience combined, “yet they refused to be defeated.”

Canchola graduated from PCHS in 2002. His coaching career took him from Hug to Galena to Damonte Ranch. 

Last season marked his return to Mustang territory as JV coach. Rich Campbell and Charlie Safford helped out. Ben Halverson coached the varsity squad.

“It’s nice to see a coach like Charlie who could retire but would rather spend time with the kids,” said Canchola. “I was lucky to have Coach Campbell as well. What’re the chances of having two veterans by your side?” 

Canchola serves as PCHS’s JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) specialist. He and Amber Montes-Canchola are raising Isaac, 3, Aubrey, 5, and Devyn, 8. 

The basketball team often played short. A few familiar JV faces included Victor Flores, Este Vidrio, Blake Burrows, Barter, Brandon Reeder, Dalton McNeff, Berto Happy, Tim Fecht, Dakota Herring, JC Astle, Brayden Wagner and Ashton Nolf.

Reder, a first-year player, sank a 3-pointer against Coral Academy on Saturday, Jan. 4. It was one of those games where every point counted. The Mustangs won 47-46.

Canchola saw a similar fighting spirit when he helped Will Barter and Jared Jenson coach baseball in the spring. 

“The Mustangs show flashes of what the future can hold,” he said after the second half against  White Pine. 

Pershing County was down 18-1 but narrowed the loss to 20-10. Across the complex, Coaches Jordan Mckinney and Drew Wanner huddled with the Lady Mustangs softball team. 

The wind played with the ball and made it hard to catch.

The track team, coached by Dave McLean and Lance Condie, squeezed in one last meet in Yerington before the axe fell. 

JC Astle placed second in the 300-meter hurdles. Presley Burrows aced the 400- meter dash while Kylee Fuller ran the mile.

These would be Pershing’s last competitions for awhile. The season ended after only two weeks when the NIAA suspended high school athletics.

Sports remains on ice until the new year. The winter sports start practice on Saturday, Jan. 2. 

They can play their first games starting Friday, Jan. 15. The six-week season runs through Sat., Feb. 20.

The varsity boys first post-COVID basketball season will feature a new head coach, Jesse Canchola.