Fans also got to see the three seniors from last year’s state championship squad return to the Brickhouse. Unfortunately for everyone donning Maroon and Gold, the fourth quarter went as smooth as the unveiling of the state championship banner, which didn’t quite unveil.
Sparks scored two points in the fourth quarter and fell 46-43 to the Vikings.
“It was unbelievable, two points in the fourth quarter. We had great looks at the basket but not a shot would fall,” Sparks boys basketball coach Mike Jones said. “That’s not where we lost. They’re shooting bonus going into the fourth quarter. We gave up offensive boards off free throws. You can’t win games like that.”
Sparks looked confident entering the third period with a 30-23 advantage. The Railroaders increased their lead to as much as 11, 38-27, thanks to a Brian Morgan pull-up jumper with 3:21 on the third-quarter clock.
Still, South Tahoe wouldn’t go away, getting to within seven again before Xavier Rodriguez hit a free throw, pushing Sparks ahead 41-33 through three quarters.
The Railroaders clung on for dear life, trying to keep the lead they enjoyed almost the entire game. But the Vikings’ pressure defense wreaked havoc and Sparks became flustered.
The SHS hoopsters managed just two points in over five minutes, enabling South Tahoe to get to within two, 43-41, with 2:50 on the clock. The Vikings also had opportunities to make it scarier, but trips to the free-throw line were not so charitable. South Tahoe was 1-of-4 from the line before Peter Pielaet-Strayer hit nothing but net on his two attempts for the 43-41 score at the 2:50 mark.
Although Sparks turned into an exhibit of futility on offense, it benefited from the Vikings coughing up the ball on consecutive trips with under two minutes to play.
It didn’t matter because the Railroaders still could not score and South Tahoe eventually closed to within one when Pielaet-Strayer went to the line and made the first free throw. His second attempt went in and out, leaving the score 43-42 with 1:06 to play.
Coming out of a timeout, Martin Jordan had a good look at a basket but his layup spun out, the M.O. of his off-shooting night. South Tahoe got the rebound, made a quick outlet and Bobby Perez’s fast-break layup put the Vikings up 44-43 with 37 seconds left.
Pielaet-Strayer was fouled with 11 seconds on the clock. He made the first foul shot, but missed the second. Brandon Cramer was there for an offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Pielaet-Strayer, who was fouled again with 6 seconds remaining.
He missed the first and made the second, leaving Sparks a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Railroaders pushed the ball up the court. Jordan received a pass, pump faked and took a 3-point shot right before the horn sounded. But the shot was long and off the mark.
Sparks owned a lead the entire first quarter of action except when it was deadlocked at 2-2 and the Vikings had an 8-7 edge.
The Railroaders went up 9-8 on Henry Banks’ third basket down low of the quarter, and the hosts never trailed again until the final minute. Banks had six of Sparks’ 13 points in the first as the Railroaders took a 13-10 lead into the second eight minutes.
Sparks almost padded the cushion to double digits. A Morgan putback at the midway point of the second quarter made the scoreboard read 22-13.
However, the Railroaders went silent long enough for the Vikings to close the gap to 22-18 by scoring five straight points in a two-minute span.
Morgan ended the South Tahoe run by ripping the twine on a 3-pointer from the left wing. The Railroaders brought that seven-point cushion into the locker rooms as neither team could sustain a run in the final two minutes of the half.
Pielaet-Strayer paced South Tahoe with 13 points, and Perez added 11.
Garcia and Banks each had 10 points in the losing cause.
Sparks (11-6, 5-2 in league) has a short time to forget this loss as it hosts Truckee today at 3:30 p.m.
Sparks is the only team South Tahoe has beat in Mount Rose League play this season, and the Vikings secured the season sweep by heading to the Rail City Friday night and claiming a lopsided 50-28 victory.
Like the contest in South Lake Tahoe last month, the Railroaders were able to keep it competitive for awhile.
South Tahoe opened up a 20-11 lead with 1:27 to go in the first half. But a 3-pointer from the corner by Krystal Parker on an inbounds play cut the deficit to 20-14 with 1:04 on the clock. Then Sparks’ Christy Martinez drove to the hoop and dropped in a layup at the buzzer sent the home team back into the locker room trailing only by four, 20-16.
Coming out of the break, South Tahoe’s Mel Sabac did her best to help the visitors pull away for good, scoring the first six points of the second half to give the Vikings a double-digit advantage, 26-16. Sabac knocked down a pull-up jumper 11 seconds into the third and then added a breakaway layup off her steal and a fast-break layup, started by another Sparks turnover.
The Railroaders just couldn’t get anything going offensively in the third quarter, scoring six points in the eight minutes. Emma Clune’s bank shot with 4 seconds left in the quarter let Sparks close the gap to 36-22, leading into the final period.
Sabac nearly doubled Sparks’ output by herself, scoring eight of the Vikings’ 16 third-quarter points.
She showcased her range, rattling home a 3-pointer from the corner, before taking a seat for the rest of the game. The senior’s trey gave South Tahoe a 41-22 lead with 6:57 left in the game.
A string of seven unanswered points by the Vikings allowed them to double up on Sparks’ score, 48-24, at the 3:38 mark of the fourth quarter.
South Tahoe wasn’t done though. Ellen Dupree took game-high scoring honors by knocking down a baseline jumper to conclude the scoring for the California school. Her 14th point of the night pushed the Vikings ahead by a game-high 50-24 margin.
Back-to-back buckets by Sparks guard Sandra Diaz in the final minute led to the final 50-28 score. Diaz led the Railroaders with nine points.
Dupree poured in 10 of her 14 points in the first half. Sabac picked up the scoring after the intermission, tallying 11 of her 13 points in the second half. Bailey David added nine points in the winning cause.
“We completely went blank. We couldn’t run our offense and we didn’t rebound well at all on the defensive end,” Sparks girls basketball coach Tony Shaw said. “I can’t explain it. We would do something good and then fall apart. We’ll just keep fighting. What else can you do?”
Sparks is back on the court today at 2 p.m. at home against Truckee.