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Teams gear up for winter break
by Dan Eckles
Dec 24, 2011 | 904 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - 
First-year Sparls basketball coach Dan Schreiber preps his players during a practice this week.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - First-year Sparls basketball coach Dan Schreiber preps his players during a practice this week.
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The Christmas break has arrived for northern Nevada’s high schools. The prep basketball teams at those schools are choosing to use the time away from the classroom in different ways. While some hoop programs are using the down time to get in some extended practice time, others will play a game or two over break.

The Washoe County School District gives its students the next two weeks off from classes, meaning they don’t return to campus until Jan. 9. NIAA rules allow basketball programs to play in 18 games and two tournaments. Many teams use the Christmas break to participate in out-of-town tournaments since their student-athletes will not miss class time over the break.

The Reed girls as well as the Spanish Springs girls and boys teams are in that boat. None of the three will be close to home in the coming week. The Reed girls have been a perennial participant in the West Coast Jamboree, which is played at high schools in the East Bay Area. The Raiders will be back at the annual late December tournament and will play a game a day Tuesday through Friday.

“I like where we are,” said Reed coach Sara Schopper, who has watched her Raiders ggt off to a 5-0 start. “We’re starting to play pretty hard and execute our offense and defense a lot better. From our first game to our fifth game, we’ve improved a lot.

“I think our team needs to be pushed and challenged a little bit more than we were last year ... We’re going over the hill trying to execute our press break. I know we’ll see a lot of full-court pressure, trapping and man-to-man stuff. I’m excited to see how we respond, how we take care of the ball against some quicker teams.”

Reed opens the West Coast Jamboree against Eastside College Prep at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.

Both Spanish Springs teams are putting their fund-raised monies to good use. They will leave the cool temperatures of northern Nevada, board planes and fly to sunny southern California for tournaments. The Spanish Springs boys are set to compete in the ESPN/Rise Holiday Classic in San Diego. The Cougars play Tuesday through Friday and fly home Saturday.

Spanish Springs coaches are hoping the tourney will give their squad a chance to gel more and become a more cohesive unit, something the Cougars have struggled with in getting off to a 5-5 start that includes just a 1-4 league mark.

“I told the kids we’re not just going to play in a basketball tournament this week,” Cougars coach Kyle Penney said. “We’ll get some time slots and we’re going to practice, too. We have to get better at what we’re doing. Our backs are against the wall in a big way right now. We’ve got to start running with the pack or we’ll get left behind.”

The Cougars open the SoCal tournament against Tesoro of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be played at San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High School.

The SSHS girls, who are off to their best start in program history at 10-2, will compete in the Larry Doyle Classic, which is hosted by Marina H.S. in Huntington Beach, Calif. The event runs Monday through Thursday.

The Cougars are set to open the event against a traditionally tough J-Serra Catholic High from San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

While that trio of Sparks teams is headed out of the region, another trio of local clubs is taking a different approach to the winter break.

The Sparks boys have already competed in two tournaments this winter, the Capital City Classic, hosted by Carson, and their own Rail City Classic. The Railroaders will get in some extended practice work during the break. Sparks (7-2) played Portola on Dec. 20, but it has only one game in the following 13 days. That comes Friday at home against Wooster.

“I feel pretty good about where we’re at,” first-year Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “Our conditioning is coming along pretty well and the kids have bought into our style of play ... I feel pretty strongly we’re right about where we want to be at this point. We’ll spend a lot of time in the next couple weeks shooting the ball and getting a little more offensive minded. This break is going to allow us to smooth things out and work on some little things. We’ll try to turn the corner and work on scouting reports, talk about what other teams want to do to attack us offensively and defensively.”

Also at Sparks, the Railroader girls (1-4) are chomping at the bit to compete again. They have not played since the first week of December and don’t play again until Jan. 3 against Dayton. That leaves the SHS crew with another week before it get another chance to throw the uniforms on.

Sparks girls coach Tony Shaw said he was hoping to get a call about a preseason tournament that needed an extra team, but that call never came.

“The kids are chomping at the bit,” Shaw said. “They want to play and I want to play. You can only do so much in practice and scrimmage so much. We try to find ways to make practice fun and get our work done. We’re keeping it to the grindstone.”

Back to Reed, the Raiders boys basketball squad is off to a blazing start, winning its first four league games. After an 0-3 start, the RHS squad got an injection of fresh faces as their football-playing members finally got in their mandatory NIAA practices and were able to play.

“I feel very good,” Raiders coach Dustin Hall said. “To be 4-0 in league play is probably more than I ever expected because we got all those guys back so late. So to be as good as we can be in league, we’re happy with that, but we’ve still got a long way to go. That’s what this next two weeks is about.”

The Raiders, who will not play in two tournaments this winter, will wind up with a 15-day break between games. Reed does not play again until it meets Douglas at home on Jan. 6. That game was originally scheduled for Nov. 29, but the two schools opted to move it back six weeks.

“We haven’t done a Christmas tournament the last couple of years. This is kind of our chance to get the football players caught up on practice time and really prepare for the bulk of league play. We’ll take the next two weeks to get everything in.

“In past years we’ve played a couple single games over the break and I tried to do that this year, but a couple teams canceled on us. Ideally, we’d like to have maybe another game or two, but it didn’t work out that way so we’ll take the opportunity to practice.”
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