Leading the way into the playoffs is Sparks, which clinched the 3A’s No. 1 seed in the Mount Rose League. The SHS hoopsters conclude their regular season tonight at home against Whittell. However, the Railroaders know they will welcome either Fernley or Dayton — which they beat 64-35 and 60-49 respectively in crossover affairs — to the Brickhouse next Friday in the first round of the playoffs. Being familiar with the Vaqueros and Dust Devils, Sparks is confident heading into the postseason.
“We feel pretty comfortable,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “We’ve played Dayton twice and Fernley once. I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what adjustments they’ve made since we’ve played them the last time. They’re kind of similar in style so we can attack them both in similar fashions. So prepping for them both, we can do a lot of little things and little drills that can help. Once we know who we have, then we can really isolate that one team.”
For the Maroon and Gold, the focus over the next week will be shoring up its small errors.
“We want to pay attention to a lot of control things,” Schreiber said. “A good example is in practice we’ve worked on a lot of just ironing out a lot of control things so that we don’t have any game slippage. In the Dayton game, we just weren’t taking care of the ball. We made bad decisions when it came to who was going to shoot it, and when, and then just not turning it over. Those are little things that we will fix leading up to next week. We’re just really trying to focus in on getting their heads on straight and really focusing on what the next two weeks mean.”
While Schreiber wants his team to focus on the details of its game, there is one thing he said the Railroaders will have to do in order to take the 3A throne.
“If you look across the board at all the teams that are involved in postseason play in the 3A, whoever comes to rebound and take care of the second shots is going to win the whole thing. That’s going to be the difference. If you take the top six or eight teams right now in the state, they’re pretty well matched up. The difference is going to be who steps on the floor and just takes care of the rebounding side of it.”
With the season quickly nearing do-or-die time, the ultimate prize is still in the crosshairs for Sparks.
“Our team goal is to win our last game,” Schreiber said. “That is our goal, period. We want to put ourselves in a situation where we win that last one.”
The Reed boys basketball team has surprised many people this season, currently sitting in second place in the High Desert League which would garner it home court in the first round of the Northern 4A tournament.
Dropping its last two games, a late-season falter has put that home game in jeopardy. The focus for Reed tonight will be to defeat North Valleys and ensure itself another game in front of Raider Nation.
“Momentum wise, we’ve obviously lost our last two games so we have a big chance to get a good win against North Valleys on Senior Night,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “We want to go in and get that win to guarantee us a home playoff game. Anytime you can play at home, obviously the kids are going to be more confident and comfortable. It’s a familiar environment. We’ll have our fans there, our ball, our hoops. So it is important. If we can take care of business, that will get us on the right track. It’s not the end all, be all though. To achieve our goal of winning a championship, you’re going to have to win in somebody else’s gym. It is nice to have the opportunity to play at home in a playoff game though.”
The Raiders had a good grip on the second seed before their two-game slip. A victory tonight would save the No. 2 spot, setting up a matchup against Sierra League No. 3 Damonte Ranch, which the Raiders beat 80-66 earlier this year. However, a loss, and a McQueen victory against Reno, would drop Reed to the third seed, sending it to either Douglas or Galena. Reed lost to both in the regular season. Regardless, Hall said he is not worried.
“To be honest, it’s not that big of a deal. Obviously you’re going to match up better against certain teams than others, but if we’re going to win a championship, we’re going to have to beat three good teams. Whether we face them in the first round, the second round, or the final, it’s going to be tough. We don’t put a lot of importance into that as much as just getting that home game. If we’re going to win a championship, we have to beat good teams and at this point everybody that makes the playoffs is playing pretty good basketball. I don’t put too much importance into that because whether we play Damonte, Galena, or Douglas, they are all going to be tough games.”
No matter the first-round opponent, the Raiders will need to tweak parts of their game to continue on in the tournament.
“We have to continue to get better,” Hall said. “There’s not a lot of time but we need to take advantage of our practices and continue to progress. Defensively, we have to continue to be better rebounding the ball, and then offensively, we have to get better with our ball control. We have to take care of the basketball and maximize our possessions.
“We’ve been real sloppy with the basketball. We just haven’t been taking care of it, just too many mental mistakes. Defensively, we’ve been playing hard. We still have a few lapses here and there, but the energy and the effort has been great from the kids. We just have to get over that hump where we just play a little cleaner of a game. Still though, I like the way our team has come together and I think we still have our best basketball ahead of us.”
In the case of a Raiders loss, Reed would not be the only team rooting for McQueen to drop its contest against Reno. After dropping its Tuesday game against Reno, cross-town rival Spanish Springs fell out of a three-way tie for the final two spots in the High Desert League. Now, with playoff hopes out of their hands, the Cougars need a victory tonight against HDL champion Hug, and a loss by the Lancers in order to keep their season alive.
“We know the scenarios,” said Spanish Springs assistant coach John Rogers, who is filling in for head coach Kyle Penney while he is away due to a family emergency. “The kids know the circumstances and they know they’ve still got a shot. They’re either going to show up and do it or we’re out of the playoffs. I think the kids are pretty confident.”
Knowing that they do not control their own destiny, the Cougars are staying focused on their game against the No. 1 seed Hawks and what they do have power over.
Rogers said that in order to give itself a shot, the Purple and White isn’t going to change much from its last game against Hug, a 72-65 home loss earlier this season.
“We played with them for the entire game,” Rogers said. “We had a lead for most of the game and we just kind of fumbled it away toward the end. At practice, we talked to the kids and we’re feeling pretty confident.
“I think that we just have to do the same things that we did. We just have to do it for a full 32 minutes. Last game when we played them, we played our game for about 28 minutes. We’re going to try to do similar things. We kept them in check for the most part, but at the end, they kind of took control. I think basically we’re going to try to do the same thing but we’re just going to try and do it for an entire game.”
Despite the fact that their postseason hopes rest in some part on the result of the Reno-McQueen game, the Cougs are not heading into their regular season finale with a sense of gloom and doom.
“No matter what, whether we get the help or not, the kids want to finish on a high note,” Rogers said. “They don’t want to go out losing the last two games of the regular season and finishing 8-8. They want to go out with a win. They know it’s out of our hands and we talked about it. The only thing that we can control is our game. They want to go out with a bang. We have two seniors, including one of the best players in the North, in Brian Smith and Brandon Delong. They want nothing more than to go out with a win. To go out with a win against the top team in the league right now, that’s what we can control. I think their mindset is pretty good right now.”