“That’s been us all year, and then we come out and get in a comfort zone and settle,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “Rather than just twisting the knife and sending it home, pushing a 20-point lead to a 30-point lead when teams will usually concede and you just ride the rest out, we let them hit a couple quick threes, put them to the foul line quite a bit, which stops the clock and builds their confidence at the foul line. Next thing you know, it’s an eight-point lead and now we’re playing back and forth.”
From the opening tip, Sparks wasted no time swarming the Greenwave. Holding Fallon scoreless until the 2:01 mark in the first quarter, the Railroaders bolted out to a 17-0 lead. After the bucket by Fallon, the Maroon and Gold extended its lead to 24-2 before ending the quarter ahead 24-4.
Two large second quarter runs by the Greenwave cut the lead down to nine before the intermission. Starting the quarter out on a 10-4 run that brought the score to 28-14, Fallon then closed out the half with an 11-6 run, leaving the scoreboard reading 34-25.
In the third quarter, the Greenwave continued to chip at the Sparks lead. With 5:27 to play, Fallon had cut the lead down to four points at 36-32. A 10-2 Railroader run, kicked off by an old fashioned three-point play by guard Xavier Rodriguez, momentarily stopped the Greenwave rush and moved the advantage back to double digits at 46-34 with just over three minutes left in the third. The quarter ended with Sparks holding on to half of its original first-quarter lead, 51-41.
Still anybody’s game, Fallon slowly erased the fourth-quarter Sparks lead. A 10-6 run made the score 57-51 with 4:01 to play. Barely clinging to their remaining lead, the Railroaders escaped with the win as the teams traded the final 13 baskets of the game.
“In the beginning we came out and set the tempo, and then we just lost our composure,” Schreiber said. “We didn’t stay composed in their 1-2-1-1 press they ran at us and made some mental mistakes we don’t normally make. We’ve had quite a few games like that, so that part we’re really good at. We’ve been forced into that situation several times, so I guess it’s good at this point because later down the road when we’re in games that are either move on or turn in your uniform, that’s going to count. So those are good learning experiences, but we still need to learn how to put a team away.”
Sparks finished the game 22-of-50 shooting (44 percent) for the game and dominated the glass, out-rebounding Fallon 35-12.
The Railroaders were led on the night by senior forward Erik Garcia, who finished with 17 points. Senior guards Brian Morgan and Xavier Rodriguez chipped in with 13 points and 12 points, respectively.
Sparks (11-4 overall, 0-1 in Mount Rose League) will return to the court Saturday when it visits North Tahoe at 3:30 p.m.
Unlike its counterparts, the Sparks girls basketball team did not pounce on its opponent to start the game. Instead, Sparks watched as Fallon flipped the roles and raced out to a commanding lead, cruising to an easy 59-32 victory over the Railroaders Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’re in that funk again,” Sparks coach Tony Shaw said. “The bottom line with us is we’re not a very good offensive team. We’re just not good offensively right now. It’s not necessarily that other teams are better than us per se, but we make them look good because we’re not executing the way we should be.”
Scoring the first 12 points of the game, Fallon didn’t allow a Sparks basket until the 1:21 mark of the first quarter. The Greenwave then closed out the quarter with two more buckets, ending the opening eight minutes with the score 16-2.
Compared to the first quarter, the Railroaders exploded in the second quarter, scoring 16 points. The quarter was a stalemate between the teams though, as Fallon also scored 16 points to leave the scoreboard reading 32-18 at halftime in favor of the Greenwave.
Coming out of the intermission, Sparks matched its first quarter total with just a single basket in the third quarter. Fallon scored the first nine points after the half, then hit a free throw after the Railroader bucket to go in to the final quarter with a 42-20 advantage. The Greenwave continued to extend its lead in the fourth on way to its 26-point victory.
The lone Railroader to reach double digits in scoring was Krystal Parker, who ended the night with 10 points. Regularly the leading scorer for Sparks, Parker had a rare off night from three-point range, missing all eight of her shots from beyond the arc. As a team, Sparks shot 11-of-61 (18 percent) from the field.
“I want to see just a little more offensive execution,” Shaw said. “If Krystal’s not stroking it, no one else is stepping up to score. I think we’re good defensively. We’ll have some break downs here and there, like everybody does, but I think defensively, we’ll match any teams intensity and we’ll be physical with anybody. We’re just beating ourselves on the other end.”
Aside from the bad game shooting, the Railroaders also helped the Fallon effort with 24 turnovers.
“That’s our biggest issue and we can’t do that,” Shaw said. “We turn the ball over way too much. If we’re not turning the ball over 20 times, then it’s 30. We’re just not learning from it. It’s up to me to get them there.”
Sparks (1-8 overall, 0-1 in Mount Rose League) hosts Incline on Tuesday.