Sparks took care of business Friday night at South Tahoe, and then came back home to the Brickhouse to face Truckee during the same week the SHS cagers knocked off league-leading Incline (2A) on the road.
The lone Nevada school out of that trio left little doubt who the top 3A team in the MRL is after downing the Wolverines 51-40 Saturday afternoon.
“Given last night’s game, I think we knew this was going to happen. That place was charged,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said of the slow start Saturday. “To come into today’s game and know what was on the line, it was hard. I don’t care who it was, in the 3A or 4A. There was nobody who had a harder week…We played all the one seeds all week, one by one we knocked them off.”
Luckily for the Maroon and Gold, Truckee likes to play at a slow and methodical pace because Sparks was far from fleet-footed in the early going after an emotionally draining game against the Vikings.
It took the Railroaders over five minutes to drop in their first basket. It also tied the score at 2-2 with 2:44 left in the first quarter.
Sparks senior Erik Garcia converted a three-point play to give his team a 5-4 edge, but the Wolverines scored the final points of the quarter to take a 6-5 lead after a slow-going first period.
Exactly like the first quarter, the Railroaders didn’t get their first bucket in the second quarter until the 2:44 mark. This time, Keiffer Putman rattled home a 3-pointer from the left wing, handing the home team an 8-7 advantage. It also started a game-changing run for Sparks.
On the Railroaders’ next possession, Xavier Rodriguez swished a trey from the opposite wing.
After a Barry Bow follow on his own miss, Rodriguez capped the 10-0 spurt with a pair of free throws, giving Sparks a 15-7 lead with just over a minute to go before halftime.
Although Truckee scored first in the second quarter, on a free throw by Clayton O’Connell nearly five minutes in, the Wolverines were held without a field goal during the second eight minutes of action.
A foul shot by Truckee’s Trent McMullen with 58 seconds on the clock accounted for the 15-8 halftime score.
In the final 2:44 of the first half, Sparks scored twice as many points as it had the first 13-plus minutes against the Truckee zone defense.
“They came off a game last night against Whittell, which was a little easier for them,” Schreiber said. “They might have had a little bit more energy. But I think you saw everything turn around in that second quarter after Keiffer’s three and X’s three. I think that was just enough energy to get that lead.”
Sparks didn’t take long to get on the board in the second half as Brian Morgan ripped the twine on a 3-pointer from the corner 1:15 into the third quarter. It also pushed the Railroaders into a double-digit lead for the first time, 18-8.
The hosts scored the first nine points of the third quarter, increasing their lead to 24-8.
The Wolverines’ offensive futility eventually ended. Graham Millie hit a runner at the 3:48 mark of the third, ending Truckee’s nearly 14-minute drought from the field. The floodgates also opened for the offense thanks to Adam Morgan coming off the bench.
Adam Morgan connected on all three of his shots in the third quarter, including a pair of three-balls. Following Adam Morgan’s second trey, Millie swiped a steal and went coast to coast for a layup, cutting the deficit to 31-20 with 1:20 remaining in the third.
Rodriguez answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Garcia scored on a baseline move with 1 second on the clock for a 36-20 lead.
Even that lead wasn’t safe with Adam Morgan roaming the hardwood. He sank his next two 3-pointers, continuing his streak of makes to his first six shots. The last got the Wolverines to within single digits for the first time since the second quarter, 40-31, with five minutes to play.
Truckee kept charging toward a come-from-behind victory. Adam Morgan had a breakaway. He wanted to go up for a dunk, but psyched himself out at the last second, hitting the front of the rim for his first miss from the field. However, Clayton O’Connell was there for the putback, closing the gap to 40-33.
After Sparks went up by double digits on a Brian Morgan fast break layup, Truckee answered with five straight points, making it a 44-38 game with 1:12 on the clock.
The Wolverines didn’t score again until Adam Morgan’s buzzer-beater for his game-high 17th point. No other Truckee player had more than six.
Rodriguez led Sparks with 14 points. Brian Morgan scored all 12 of his points in the second half and Devine added 10.
The Railroaders (17-5, 6-2 MRL) close out the regular season at home against North Tahoe Tuesday and Whittell Friday, the two teams at the bottom of the standings. Sparks held both teams to 21 points in the first meetings, while outscoring them by 37 and 42 points respectively. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.