It was well worth the wait. The Railroaders used a dominating second half to secure a 63-48 victory Thursday.
Sparks jumped out to a 7-0 lead less than a minute and a half into the game.
Yerington scored its first bucket at the six-minute mark, and then a minute later, Tyler Peeples flushed home a one-handed jam on a breakaway, cutting the deficit to 9-6. That was as close as the Lions would get for the remainder of the opening quarter.
The Railroaders doubled their lead with a 3-pointer from Keiffer Putman, which started a second 7-0 run and led to the home team’s first double-digit edge, 16-6, with 2:42 to go in the first.
The teams traded 3-pointers, but Yerington scored the last three points of the first, making it a 19-12 ballgame.
With 5:14 left in the first half, Sparks surged ahead to its largest lead of the first half, thanks to a three-point play by Bobby Brown. That gave the hosts a 25-14 lead.
But that was also when Peeples went off for the Lions. Peeples sparked an 11-0 onslaught by dropping in a trio of 3-pointers, tying the game at 25-25 at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter.
Brown broke a 27-27 deadlock with a short-range jumper. That left the Railroaders leading 29-27 at the break.
It didn’t take long for it to become clear that one team made adjustments during halftime.
The Railroaders steamrolled the Lions as soon as the second half started. Sparks used a trapping defense and pushed the tempo to where it wanted. That led to a 18-2 run and a 45-29 SHS advantage just over five minutes into the third. Brian Morgan scored 11 of Sparks’ 20 third-quarter points and finished with a game-high 20 points.
“We had the opportunity for 10 minutes to show them where the pockets were in Yerington’s 1-2-2 zone and how to attack it,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “It was textbook what I put on the board for them. They attacked that gap at the high post. We got four quick shots there, followed by a 3, that was the game. It’s nice to be able to draw something and they’re able to go and do it.”
Yerington was able to close the gap to 13, 47-34, with a minute and a half left in the third period on a shot by Kaleb Jackson from way downtown. But Morgan’s pull-up jumper with 2 seconds on the clock sent Sparks into the final eight minutes of action with a 49-34 lead.
The 13-point gap was the smallest it would be until Sparks inexplicably started rushing its offense, turning the ball over or taking too hurried of shots.
That allowed the Lions to pull closer in the final minute and a half.
Yerington’s Aaron Brown was fouled while making a runner on a fast break. He missed the foul shot, but Peeples was there for the putback, cutting the deficit to 58-45 with his team-high 19th point.
The Railroaders rushed down the court and a lack of discipline allowed Yerington to start a fast break. Aaron Crowl finished his layup for his 12th point of the night and made it a 58-47 score with under a minute to play.
“We got the lead. I don’t care if it’s two points or 20 points. There’s no shot clock in the state of Nevada. You are in complete control,” Schreiber said. “That’s what we talked about after the game.”
Sparks scored four points in the last 14 seconds to account for the final 15-point margin.
Xavier Rodriguez added 10 points for Sparks (4-2), which takes on Rite of Passage tonight at 7:30 p.m. in one of the semifinal matchups.