So far the season has been stop-and-go in terms of league play. Teams opened the season with a league game at the end of November and it took seven weeks for teams reach the midway point of their league schedules due to non-league tournaments, winter break and final exams week.
Now, teams will complete the second half of their league schedules in less than half the time it took to play the first eight Northern 4A games. In three weeks, fans will know which eight teams will be heading to the regional playoffs.
Most coaches don’t mind playing the crossover games against the other league since each team plays each other. However, the timing of the games is less than desirable for some.
Luckily, coaches have been more understanding about the plight of teams who miss players due to their football teams making long postseason runs and have been willing to reschedule.
Douglas allowed Reed to reschedule their season opener, but the Raiders still had to play their first four games, including one league game, without three starters who were part of the Blue and Gold football squad.
“I don’t mind they do count. I just think it’s ridiculous they count from Day 1. The fact we played a league game our first game of the year,” Reed boys basketball coach Dustin Hall said. “In our situation, we had to play a league game without half our team. If we would have lost that game, in the long run it could end up costing you a playoff spot or a home game. I don’t think they should count if they schedule them the first week of the year.
“If they can backload the schedule and maybe play three games a week in January, then I don’t mind them counting. The first game of the year shouldn’t be a playoff determination game.”
SSHS boys basketball coach Kyle Penney shared similar sentiments.
“I like the idea of playing the teams in the area because it’s not like Reno is a huge city,” Penney said. “It’s nice to be able to play everybody. Having the crossover games count as league games, I wouldn’t mind doing away with that. You can still make those games mandatory. Teams are going to get better as the year goes if the kids buy into what you’re trying to do. That’s where we’re at right now. Kids have figured out their roles and we’ve come a long way since our first couple league games.”
Both Spanish Springs and Reed opened the league season with a victory. However, the Cougars dug themselves a hole by losing the next three league contests.
A trip to SoCal was all the team needed. Although Spanish Springs didn’t play great at the tournament, they also didn’t have their two seniors who were sick. That allowed some younger kids to step up and enjoy the increased roles and playing time.
The Cougars also needed the team-bonding experience and they came back to town with a renewed vigor. Spanish Springs won three league games in a row and sit at 4-4 with eight league match-ups remaining.
The Cougars are still on the outside looking in on the playoff picture as the HDL’s fifth-place team, one game behind Reno in the loss column.
“We tell our kids all season long that it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Penney said. “We kind of joined the pack of the marathon, but we’re still behind it in a way. It’s about how you finish and not how you start. There’s still a lot of finishing to be done.”
Reed hasn’t quite made it to the halfway point of its league slate. The Raiders postponed their initial meeting with Reno from mid-December to Monday.
That gives Reed a busy week. Starting Friday, the Raiders will play five games in eight days, including the Huskies twice next week.
“It’s obviously going to be a crucial stretch, a third of our league schedule in eight days. It’s going to be brutal,” Hall said. “We’ve been talking about it for awhile. The kids know it. We’ve taken advantage of the practice time that we’ve had. They know how tough it’s going to be and how important it’s going to be for our season outlook. I think our kids are going to be ready for it.”
While Reed is off to a good start, sitting in second place of the High Desert League with a 5-2 league mark, the next week-plus could define the rest of the Raiders’ season. Hug leads the HDL with a 7-1 record, while McQueen is only a half game behind Reed in third.
“It’s so bunched up right now that we haven’t really talked about what seed we need to get,” Hall said. “Obviously, first we would like to get into the playoffs. Second, a home playoff game would be ideal. To be honest, all we’ve really talked about is our next opponent. If we can pick, obviously we would like to be the one seed.”
Hall said his team will need to get better defensively because it gives up too many easy buckets. On offense, execution needs to get better in order to counter teams that try to slow down the Raiders’ fast-pace attack.
Despite playing only four non-league games this year, Reed’s schedule is probably more beneficial to this team in order to utilize the extra practice time.
“Every year it’s different. It would have been nice to play a full-loaded schedule,” Hall said. “We anticipated we would be getting a lot of football players late, and if it came down to it, I’d prefer the kids to get some practice time as opposed to playing in an extra tournament where they might not get as much out of it. We took that approach this year. We just wanted to maximize our practice time, so we could get the guys who hadn’t touched a ball in awhile back in shape.
“We played a couple tough non-league games. We played in that tournament to start the year where guys who aren’t used to being in a position to be the guy, had to step up and get a lot of minutes. I think that’s going to benefit us in the long run.”
The 3A has a more ideal schedule. Sparks has only played one Mount Rose League foe so far and has 14 non-league games under its belt, which is more games than Reed has played combined between league and non-league play.
The Railroaders have also benefited from their location more than any of their Mount Rose League counterparts. Because the Railroaders are in town, Sparks can play other local teams, including the 4A schools.
The Maroon and Gold has taken on Reed twice, Damonte Ranch, McQueen and Wooster.
“We got a lot of different looks from a lot of different teams. My opinion as a coach, in your preseason you want to exploit your weaknesses, so you can go back to work on them before you get into the real league games. Those weaknesses aren’t your weaknesses anymore,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “We’ve worked on a lot of that. We’re right where we want to be. We want to get the weaknesses out that we can, and hopefully start moving these kids to peaking sometime in late January or early February, so we can hold that plateau for about two weeks.”
The challenge with the 3A’s league schedule is that the three Northern leagues all contain 2A schools as well. But when postseason time comes, those teams play in separate regional tournaments. Sparks is fighting South Tahoe and Truckee for the Mount Rose’s only two 3A playoff berths, meaning the Railroaders’ loss to the Vikings in their only league game to this point is more damaging.
“I think we’re going to see quality games throughout,” Schreiber said. “South Tahoe has already gotten us. Truckee is going to pose a problem. They play a real tight zone, they’re big and very physical. Incline is very disciplined and playing very well. Those are six games out of league that will help us move in the direction that we need to be in.”