The only problem was SHS coach Mike Jones had called a timeout just before his senior knocked down the tough jumper. Officials granted the timeout and waived off the shot. The Railroaders came out of the brief respite and got off two potential game-tying 3-point tries in the waning seconds, but both bounced off the rim and Dayton pulled out the 55-52 non-league prep basketball win at the Brickhouse.
"That's happened to us before," Jones said. "It happened three years ago at state. You're just playing the odds there. The odds say call the timeout. That's the right coaching move. Now I wish I would've kept my mouth shut. But we lost that game for reasons other than calling that timeout."
Jones pointed to a poor shooting night for his club from both the field and the charity stripe (5-of-11 from the free-throw line). He also pointed to poor decisions and inopportune turnovers as reasons for his team's struggles, adding that the rust showed from not playing in three weeks. Inclement weather saw school district officials cancel the Railroaders last three scheduled games, during the Rail City Classic Dec. 16-17-18. Sparks had not played since Dec. 14.
"Our practices were starting to get a little stale. I was worried about this one tonight," Jones said. "We had not played in a long time and the rust showed, but you have to give Dayton credit. They got in our space. They bumped us off our routes. They played good defense."
Despite the long layoff, Sparks (5-3) had a 43-42 lead after junior Brian Morgan drained a 12-foot jumper in the key at the fourth quarter's 5:10 mark. Unfortunately for Sparks, Dayton (8-2) scored on its next trip down the floor and never relinquished the lead.
Dayton got a 3-pointer and 3-point play from Dylan Taylor on its next two possessions to regain the momentum. The Dust Devils extended their lead to seven, 54-47 when Kage Walker converted two free throws with 2:19 left in the contest.
"It was mistakes more than not being able to get stops," Jones said. "We had a back-court violation, then a travel, then a bad reversal pass and it all happened right in that stretch. We'd do a couple things right and then give the momentum right back."
Still, Sparks did not roll over and play and play dead. Eric Garcia made two free throws and Martin Jordan drilled a 3-pointer that saw Sparks trim the Dayton lead to two, 54-52 with 1:34 still showing on the clock.
Dayton helped Sparks hang around by missing 7 of 8 free throws through the remainder of the game, but the Railroaders could not get a game-tying shot to fall.
"Missing free throws had been a problem all year," Dayton coach Jason Santos said. "We are a horrible free-throw shooting team and I don't know what it is. It's cost us in both of our losses."
Taylor poured in 29 points for Dayton to lead all scorers. He was the lone Dust Devils player in double figures. Morgan and Banks contributed 11 and 10 points for Sparks in defeat.
Sparks opens 3A North Mount Rose League play Saturday with a road game against South Tahoe. Tip-off is 3:30 p.m.
"Hopefully, we'll get a good couple days of practice in with a lot of energy and some good things will happen," Jones said. "South Tahoe will be tough at home. We know that."
Erin Edison and Maribel Ledezma scored 13 and 10 points respectively in leading Dayton to a 52-39 road win over Sparks in girls prep basketball action Tuesday night.
Dayton grabbed a 16-10 lead after one period. The Dust Devils still had a six-point lead at the break, 26-20. The visitors gradually pulled away from there, outscoring Sparks 15-9 in the third period and 11-10 in the fourth.
Krystal Parker led Sparks, finishing with 11 points.
The Railroaders return to the court for a 2 p.m. game at South Tahoe Saturday.