Hall took over for Gray after the 2007-08 season and immediately led Reed right back to the playoffs in his first year guiding the program, 2008-09. Unfortunately for Hall and the RHS fans, each of the past two seasons have ended in losing records and the Raiders missing the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1995-96 and 1996-97 campaigns.
Given that, it might have been easy for Hall to step down and say this coaching thing isn’t for me. He did not do that.
Hall returned for a fourth season and his Raiders may be the surprise team in the Northern 4A. The Raiders have already locked up a postseason bid and a win Friday night at home against last-place North Valleys would make Reed the High Desert League’s runner-up. That means the RHS club would host a first-round regional tournament game Feb. 15. It might also mean there is an HDL Coach-of-the-Year award waiting for Hall.
Not many local prep hoops prognosticators had that on their radar last November. I admit, I certainly did not. That’s a credit to the players wearing Blue and Gold for proving all of us wrong. But did Hall know?
“I did, deep down inside,” he said. “I knew this group had a lot of competitive kids, a lot of good athletes who have been successful in other fields. I knew if everything came together we could have some success. But at the same time, there were a lot question marks because we didn’t have a lot of proven basketball players.”
Reed is 11-8 overall and 10-5 in conference clashes. If Reed is able to win Friday and host a playoff game, it would be the Raiders’ first home postseason game since the 2006-07 season.
Hall said he has a special group of athletes on this team, a group that is hungrier than most, that hangs its hat on reaching great expectations.
“The kids have done a lot of good things this year and proven to themselves they can compete with anybody in the league,” Hall said. “They’ve raised the bar and their expectation level. In the past, we could’ve lost a couple close games in a row and felt OK that we played all right. But now, these kids expect to win the game. I’m pleased with the kids’ mental approach to the game this year.”
Hall should indeed be pleased with his team’s mental make-up. The Raiders have faced plenty of adversity this winter. That was no more evident than when they hosted cross-town rival Spanish Springs three weeks ago. The Cougars held a 33-17 halftime lead, but Reed rallied for 58 points after the intermission and cruised to a key 75-63 comeback win.
But obstacles to Reed’s basketball program began on Day 1 of practice and continued well into the regular season. Seven varsity players were unavailable to the hoop team until mid-December. That’s because the Reed football team was making a run to the state championship game.
Still, Reed handled that challenge, even winning its league opener on the road over Carson with its football contingent still missing in action. Hall opted to keep his team in town over the Winter Break and get in some extra practice time as opposed to playing in a post-Christmas tournament. He believes that decision has paid dividends.
“It’s been a long process to get this team acclimated to each other and in basketball mode,” Hall said. “We’re still trying to improve and clean things up, but this group especially has benefited from a lot of practice time and just competing with each other.
“This season has felt good and a lot of credit has to go to the kids. They have pushed each other every day, even with limited time and the football players coming late. They had every excuse in the world not to have a good year. We set the tone early and talked about having no excuses. All 13 of them have bought into that.”
I’m always happy to see local teams succeed. The Reed boys hoop team deserves some praise. When the going got tough, they got tougher and have risen to the occasion. Here’s to hoping they get a win Friday, host a playoff game and that’s just the start of a deep playoff run. Good luck Raiders!
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org