But that was one prideful bunch of girls.
The Railroaders exited the locker room with a pre-game swagger like nothing was going to stand in the way of the four seniors ending their high school careers with a victory.
Whittell tried to impede them, but like the first time the two teams met, the players donning Maroon and Gold were the ones celebrating after Sparks earned a 33-27 Mount Rose League victory Friday night at the Brickhouse.
The emotions of Senior Night took a toll on Sparks in the first quarter. Both teams were chucking up shots from all over and none were falling.
The Railroaders broke the scoreless tie with 3:18 on the first-quarter clock when senior Stephanie Parker rattled home a 3-pointer. That’s the only shot the home team made in the first period.
Whittell answered with a pair of buckets — a runner off the glass by Amanda Harris and a long two by twin sister Emily Harris from the corner. The 4-3 score remained until the second quarter.
Amanda Harris opened the second quarter’s scoring with another unorthodox runner.
The teams traded baskets until Sparks went back to back. Senior Emma Clune’s layup in transition handed the Railroaders a 9-8 edge with 4:48 left in the first half.
Amanda Harris reclaimed the lead for the visitors with a left-handed baby hook 21 seconds later — the shortest gap between made shots in the first half.
Sparks went back ahead 11-10 on a Parker 12-footer, but Amanda Harris made the first of two free throws to knot the score at 11-11 with 3:39 to go before the break.
After the Warriors grabbed a 13-11 advantage, Katelynn Vandever swiped back-to-back steals and went coast to coast. She was fouled on her first layup attempt. While she seemed to take offense to the contact, she calmed down and sank both foul shots.
Vandever was also fouled on her second layup attempt, following her second steal, but she made the shot despite the foul. However, she missed the chance to convert the three-point play, leaving the Railroaders ahead 15-13 with 1:21 on the clock.
Whittell wasn’t about to let Sparks take a lead into halftime as the Zephyr Cove school came down the court and stole a 16-15 halftime edge when Emily Harris banked in a trey from the right wing.
Like the first quarter, Sparks scored first and Whittell answered with two consecutive baskets to open the third. This time, the Railroaders had an answer for the answer.
With 1:00 on the third-quarter clock, Clune pulled down a rebound and went up strong for a putback and a foul. The free throw hit nothing but net and the three-point play left the score deadlocked at 20-20.
But with an unbalanced scoop shot, Emily Harris gave the Warriors a 22-20 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
It didn’t take long for fans to realize which Sparks team was coming out to play in the fourth quarter. On consecutive possessions, the Railroaders scored on third-chance opportunities, claiming a 24-22 lead.
“It was really important for us to win because we haven’t won that many games, so we just wanted to end it on a good note,” Clune said. “We weren’t making too many shots, but I felt like we were going to end pretty good. We were going to go strong and go hard because it was the last quarter of our senior year.”
With 5:36 remaining in the game, Vandever knocked home a 3-pointer from the right wing, pushing the gap to 28-24, the largest lead for either team to that point.
Three straight points by Amanda Harris cut the deficit to 28-27, but Whittell was held scoreless the last 4:11 of the game.
Sparks had a nearly four-minute drought, but it didn’t give up the lead. Clune ended that drought when she scored down low on an inbounds play under the basket with 1:48 to go.
The Warriors were forced to play the foul game, but the Railroaders did what they needed. Vandever was 3-for-4 from the charity stripe in the final minute and a half, and Leti Perez knocked down a pair of foul shots after being intentionally fouled.
I think if we ever have games where it’s pretty ugly, we play better when it’s ugly. We do things the right way,” Sparks girls basketball coach Tony Shaw said. “We played hard. We thought we were going to have a better season. We just couldn’t get over that hump. We’ll bounce back next year.”
Amanda Harris poured in a game-high 12 points, while Emily Harris had 11 to account for all but four of their team’s points.
Seven different Railroaders found the scoring column in the win, led by Vandever’s 10. Seniors Clune and Parker added seven apiece, while the team’s leading scorer on the season, Krystal Parker, was held without a point.
“They started to figure that out. They depended on her (Krystal Parker) a lot, but then other teams would focus on her,” Shaw said. “She was battling sickness tonight. But we came through. We’ll take it anyway we can get it.”
Sparks finishes the season at 4-14 overall and 2-8 in league play.
There wasn’t anything dramatic about the Sparks boys game. The Railroaders knew they had the No. 1 seed locked up and they got to close out the regular season against a team they already beat by 42 points on the road.
At least some of the other seniors got to showcase their skills for the home crowd. Speedy CJ Sampang blitzed Whittell for seven first-quarter points as Sparks built an 18-2 lead after the first eight minutes of action and cruised to a 68-34 Mount Rose League win.
“It was fun. We relaxed a little bit,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “We worked on some things that had to do with ball pressure. We got some other kids minutes. It’s the last home game for the seniors. We wanted to make sure we turn the page and get back to practice and start looking at who we’re playing.”
Sampang was making shots from all over the court. The southpaw hit a pull-up jumper on a fast break, knocked down a 3-pointer and drove to the hoop for a layup.
Fellow senior Brian Morgan heated up toward the end of the first quarter, scoring the last four points of the period to pad the cushion to 18-2.
With Sparks experimenting with different rotations of players to get reserves more court time, Whittell began climbing back into the game.
Bryce Bronleen capped a 7-1 run with a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key, slicing the deficit down to 10, 19-9, with 5:46 to play in the first half. The Warriors couldn’t get the margin into single digits.
Erik Garcia made a tear-drop floater and Morgan swished a three-ball, forging Sparks back into a 15-point lead, 24-9.
The Railroaders only tallied one more point in the last 4:11 of the half, allowing the visiting squad to make it a 25-14 game at the intermission.
“With so many substitutions, it’s really hard to develop that continuity,” Schreiber said.
Sparks put the hammer down on Whittell as Garcia and Morgan combined for the first 15 points of the second half, increasing the lead to 26, 40-14, halfway through the third quarter.
Sparks outscored Whittell 26-7 in the third. Morgan poured in 10 third-quarter points, and Garcia had nine. The Railroaders led by 30 at the end of three quarters, 51-21.
The fourth quarter was pretty chaotic as the hosts were hoping for a chance to throw down a dunk. That chance never arose.
But back-to-back baskets by fan favorites Hennessey Banks and Adam Morgan propelled Sparks into its largest lead of the night, 63-26.
All but one Railroader scored Friday. Brian Morgan led the way with 17 and Garcia had 16.
Austin Buyak was the lone Warrior in double figures. He finished with 14 in the losing cause.
Sparks (18-6, 8-2 in MRL) will host Lahontan League runner-up Fernley Friday in the regional playoffs. The winner moves on to the state semifinals.