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THAT'S A WRAP: Sparks schools conclude regular season, look ahead to playoffs
by Dan Eckles
Feb 09, 2011 | 1028 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs junior Brandon Delong has helped the Cougars clinch a playoff berth this winter after the local school missed out on a postseason trip a year ago.
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs junior Brandon Delong has helped the Cougars clinch a playoff berth this winter after the local school missed out on a postseason trip a year ago.
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The final weekend of Nevada's winter prep basketball season is here and the playoff picture is surprisingly clearer than in most years. Four of the six Sparks-area high school hoop teams have clinched playoff berths and another is still in the mix for a postseason slot if things fall right.

The Reed and Spanish Springs girls have earned postseason dates as have the Spanish Springs and Sparks boys. The Sparks girls still have a chance to qualify for their first postseason in 13 years. Of the local contingent of teams, only the Reed boys know they'll miss the regional playoffs. It's the second straight year the Raiders will sit home during regional play after they had qualified eight straight years.

Here's a closer look at the playoff picture involving local programs.

Reed girls

•There was never really any doubt that Reed would be making its ninth consecutive playoff appearance. The Raiders have run roughshod through their winter schedule, rolling to a 22-0 record, including 15-0 in conference clashes.

Reed has already locked up the High Desert League championship and its No. 1 playoff seed. The Raiders will host Sierra League No. 4 seed Damonte Ranch in a first-round Northern Region tournament game Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Raiders rolled to an 82-29 road romp over the Mustangs last week in the only meting between the two schools this season.

"We saw them, actually just last week," Reed coach Sara Schopper said. "It hasn't been that long ago that we played them. I like to play everybody one time and see what's out there, to be prepared for the playoffs."

Schopper was alluding to the new Northern 4A master schedule adopted for this season, which called for Northern 4A schools to play each of their league opponents twice and each school in the opposite league once. Teams had not played mandatory crossover games in years past.

The Raiders seem to be hitting on all cylinders as the postseason nears. Reed, which wraps up its season at North Valleys Friday, has not been challenged by a Northern 4A foe all season. The RHS crew's closest contest in a conference clash was a 53-30 trouncing of Galena two weeks ago. Reed, which is ranked first in the state by Maxpreps.com, has only played one game where the final margin was single digits, a 60-59 win over Miramonte in the West Coast Jamboree over Christmas Break.

"The season has gone really well," Schopper said. "My girls are playing hard and excited for the playoffs … All of my girls are doing what they're supposed to do, playing team basketball. I feel like they're ready."

Spanish Springs girls

•It's been an up and down year for the Cougars. Spanish Springs does not have a winning streak longer than three games or a losing skid longer than three games, accomplishing each feat once this winter.

Wins and losses have often alternated throughout the season. Still, Spanish Springs seems to be playing its best basketball of the winter as the season nears its end. The Cougars (13-11, 7-7) have won five of their last seven games and have bounced back to earn a playoff berth after missing out on the postseason parade last year.

"It's exciting. I think every year you work toward this," Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. "I think last year we felt like we had a team that should've made it and fell short. Now, we're rebuilding with a younger team. I'm proud of the hard work the girls have put in and happy we're back in position to get to compete in the playoffs.

"I think that we're improving and getting better every day. That's all you can ask, to get better as the season goes on. Hopefully, we're playing our best basketball these last two weeks."

Spanish Springs still has an outside shot of capturing the HDL's No. 3 seed. It would need to upset Reno Thursday night, beat Hug Friday and have Reno complete its season sweep of McQueen Friday.

If that happens, Spanish Springs and McQueen would both end up at 9-7 in league play with the SSHS club owning the tiebreaker.

Spanish Springs will be the HDL's fourth seed if it loses either of its final two games. The Cougars will travel for their first-round playoff affair, going to either Galena or Bishop Manogue for a 7 p.m. matchup Wednesday.

Sparks girls

•Sparks opened the season with nine straight losses but has found a way to win three of its last seven games and can still qualify for postseason play. The Railroaders need to beat Whittell in their regular season finale, a squad they bounced 38-32 in their first meeting two weeks ago. Additionally, Sparks (3-13, 3-6) needs North Tahoe to beat South Tahoe, which it did earlier in the season, Friday.

If both of those scenarios go the Railroaders' way, 3A Sparks will make its first postseason appearance since 1998 when it was a 4A school.

Sparks would travel to Fallon or Fernley for a playoff game Feb. 18.

Spanish Springs boys

The Cougars (10-13, 7-7), who missed the playoffs a year ago, have already assured themselves of a postseason slot for the third time in the last four seasons.

Spanish Springs can do no worse than the HDL's No. 4 seed, but could still be the third seed if a couple scenarios, although a bit far-fetched, play out. The Cougars need to win their final two games, both at home, tonight against Reno and Friday against HDL frontrunner Hug. the Cougars would also need Reno to lose to McQueen Friday.

If all those happen, the Cougars would be the HDL's third seed and likely travel to Douglas for a first-round playoff tilt. If Spanish Springs is the No. 4 seed, it will likely travel to Bishop Manogue for its playoff opener. The Cougars' postseason affair will be Tuesday at 7 p.m., regardless of its host opponent.

"It is definitely fun to make the playoffs," Cougars coach Kyle Penney said. "I think that's the goal of every program.

"But, we're not necessarily playing our best basketball. I'm not sure if we will get there ... That's not boding well for a team going to the playoffs, but I know we all believe we could be good. We're still guaranteed three games. I'm a true believer, if that light bulb goes off, we can be really can be good."

Sparks boys

Sparks concludes its regular season tonight at Whittell at 7:30 p.m. The Railroaders (13-6, 7-2) have already clinched the 3A Mount Rose League's top playoff seed. With that, comes a regional playoff home game Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. against Humboldt League runner-up Elko.

A win there would give Sparks a berth in the 3A state tournament Feb. 25-26 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. A loss in that regional play-in game would end the Railroaders' season.

"I think the 3A league's got a lot of parity this year," Sparks coach Mike Jones said. "All of the top 5 teams are really close to equal. Anybody can beat anybody on a given night. I think having the home court is going to be huge for us. Hopefully, we'll get a good fan base there."

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