Facing a team it had beaten by 29 points during the regular season, Sparks opened the playoffs at home and needed one win in order to advance to the state tournament semifinals.
Instead, the Mount Rose League’s No. 1 seed was stunned in overtime by Fernley, 60-59, a team which was only 13-13 after that win.
While Sparks graduated four seniors who were all-league selections, the Railroaders do return a solid core of players who were there for that disappointing ending.
“I think the biggest piece they took from last year, and it’s a maturity piece more than anything, is not to take anything for granted because when it’s over, it’s over,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said.
D.J. Devine is the only returning player who earned all-league honors last season on a team that finished with an 18-7 record and an 8-2 mark in league play. But Keiffer Putman, Bobby Brown, Hennessey Banks, Adam Morgan and Mike Albior are also returning. Schreiber said the players up from JV are also making a strong impact.
“The expectations this year are the same as they were last year. We have a good group of kids who play hard and want to be in that situation where we have the ball in our hands and we’re playing in the last game of the season,” Schreiber said. “We want to win our last game.”
Schreiber thought the early season scrimmages against Damonte Ranch and Hug were successful in figuring out what the Railroaders need to work on and what they don’t. Schreiber has also felt very encouraged after recent practices and Sparks will see if that turns into on-the-court success starting today.
Sparks appears to be a strong rebounding team so far, and Schreiber said the players are smart about it as well. The Railroaders also are patient on offense and see what the coaching staff wants to get out of them.
If the Railroaders don’t do well during the Mount Rose League season, it won’t be because they aren’t tested during the non-league schedule. The Maroon and Gold opens the season today against traditionally tough large school Hug. Tip-off at home is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“Our schedule this year is nothing like it was last year,” Schreiber said. “We start off with Hug and then we immediately go in and play Reed at the Capital City Classic, followed by Damonte and Carson. We jump right into a league/non-league game with Lowry, the state champion. They return everybody, they didn’t graduate a kid. In our tournament, we open up with Galena. There are no easy games. We’ll be ready by February. We’ll be tested. If there’s anything to be said, we definitely have a hard schedule.”