It never happened.
The Viking horde of South Tahoe punished the Railroaders on the glass and went back to South Lake with an easy 70-56 victory in both schools’ Mount Rose League debut.
“I think in the mind of a teenager, they think they can turn the switch on and off,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “From a coaching standpoint, I think this was good to learn that we have to play from start to finish. Dayton (Tuesday) was a good game, but I think we got a little at ease that we could just turn it on when we needed to. We found a team that wouldn’t let us turn it on. You have to credit South Tahoe for that.”
Sparks had to erase a couple of small deficits in the opening minutes when it was a competitive game. The hosts turned a four-point deficiency into a one-point lead on a 3-pointer by Keiffer Putman and a pair of free throws by Erik Garcia, making the score 8-7 in favor of the Maroon and Gold.
The Railroaders’ edge was short-lived and they had to make up a three-point gap past the halfway point of the first. Brian Morgan handed Sparks a 12-11 advantage with 3:33 to go in the first when he was fouled during a three-point attempt from the corner. He knocked down the trey and converted the ensuing foul shot for a four-point play.
Again, South Tahoe regained the lead, but this time couldn’t pad its cushion beyond one point, allowing back-to-back makes by Garcia and Bobby Brown to give the Railroaders a three-point lead, 16-13, with 54 seconds on the first-quarter clock.
South Tahoe’s Brandon Cramer made it a one-point contest heading into the second quarter with his pull-up jumper to close out the first quarter’s scoring. That cut Sparks’ lead to 16-15.
Cramer then opened the second quarter with a three-point play and the Vikings began to take control.
A Putman 3-pointer with 3:22 remaining in the first half again cut the South Tahoe lead down to one, 24-23. But that’s as close as Sparks would get for the rest of the way.
South Tahoe scored three points on its final three trips down the court in the first half, enabling the visitors to enjoy a 35-26 halftime cushion.
It didn’t take long for the Vikings to increase their edge to double digits. Fifteen seconds into the second half, a putback by Jacob Stowell gave South Tahoe a 37-26 lead.
The Vikings continued to out-hustle the Railroaders in the third quarter, getting second-chance opportunities that helped lead to a string of seven unanswered points, leaving STHS with a 49-33 edge with 2:37 to go in the third.
“Their two bigs, through 12 games this season, had 30 and 32 offensive rebounds. That’s not defensive rebounds. That’s offensive. That means they’re hovering around the rim when the ball is shot and getting second opportunities,” Schreiber said. “We talked about it. That’s where we lost it. I think we gave them 24 or 26 points on second shots. That’s the difference in the game. We got outworked. They came to play. We were a step behind in every spot.”
Sparks was able to close the gap to 15 points on Garcia’s turnaround baby hook at the buzzer. However, the fourth quarter didn’t get any better for the home team as both teams went bucket for bucket.
The Railroaders picked up their energy level for the final eight minutes of the conference clash, but South Tahoe had the advantage of being in the bonus situation since the end of the third quarter and it made enough of its attempts from the charity stripe to keep the Railroaders at bay.
Sparks never got closer than a dozen points.
Cramer led all scorers with 26 points, while Stowell added 17.
Garcia was the lone Railroader in double figures with 16 points.
Sparks (9-3, 0-1 in Mount Rose League) will make the short trip to Reed Saturday for a non-league game at 5 p.m.