Holding a slight 22-21 edge over the Vaqueros, with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Maroon and Gold went on an 11-0 spurt to close the half ahead 33-21. Fernley never got within seven of the Railroaders the rest of the way in the Division I-A North matchup and Sparks coasted to a 58-44 victory.
"I think the last two minutes of the second quarter won the game for us," Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. "If you look at the quarter break down, we don't win without that 11-0 run. That was a huge two minutes for us. We had a little bit of a spurt in the fourth quarter, but that was the game."
The crucial run was ignited by a 3-pointer from the wing by senior Keiffer Putman. A layup from Bobby Brown and a strong putback effort by D.J. Devine, along with a pair of free throws, followed. Finally, Sparks wrapped up the run with a Putman steal and an ensuing 2-on-1 fast break. With the numbers advantage, Putman sent a bounce pass behind a helpless Vaquero defender to Devine, who laid home the bucket at the buzzer for the 33-21 gap.
During the first two minutes out of the break, Fernley put together a short-lived 7-2 rally to cut the score to 35-28. An 8-2 response from the Railroaders nullified the visitors' efforts, pushing SHS lead up to 43-30, but the Vaqueros scored the last six points of the third quarter to leave the deficit at 43-36.
With one quarter remaining, Sparks pushed its lead to nine and the scoreboard read 51-42 with 3:29 to play. From there, the Railroaders scored the next six points of the contest to seal the win.
While Sparks earned the 'W,' Schreiber still said there is a lot for his team to improve upon.
"Fernley was by far the aggressor tonight. That's out of character for us because we've been pretty aggressive with some of the teams we've played," he said. "Tonight we were kind of in a fog. I think we were good enough to win, but I think at this point in the season we need to be making strides forward, and that's what's frustrating.
"I want to see better composure under pressure, better ball control. The other team is getting a tip or a hand on every pass. That takes us out of our offense because guys have to stop and step back from a cut. It's those little things that we're not taking care of."
Devine led the way for the Railroaders, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Brown added 14 on the night to go along with seven boards. Putman tallied nine while seniors Mike Albior and Geo Vasquez both chipped in with eight points.
Sparks (7-8) will return to the hardwood on the road as it visits Dayton Saturday. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m.
Scoring was at a premium between the Sparks girls basketball team and Fernley. Unfortunately for the Railroaders, FHS had a just a little bit more Tuesday night.
Sparks jumped out to an early lead against Fernley with two quick drives by Katelynn Vandever to grab a short 6-3 lead, but a 10-1 run by the Vaqueros put the visitors ahead. While the lead would not be relinquished, Sparks kept the contest close and threatened late into the game. Still, Fernley squeaked by with a 35-29 victory.
"What an effort they gave tonight," Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. "I mean wow, total team effort. I can't ask for any more. Our skill sets are starting to improve. We're adapting to the game and we're learning the game. We are continuing to strive for success and it's going to happen."
Using the 10-1 run to grab a 15-10 advantage after one quarter, Fernley pushed its lead to double digits with the first six points of the second quarter and the clock at 5:05. The remainder of the way until halftime both sides faltered as Sparks managed three points and the Vaqueros went scoreless to leave the score at 21-13 at the break.
Out of the intermission, Sparks rallied back, outscoring Fernley 8-5 in the third to keep the score close at 26-21.
Within striking distance, the Railroaders made the game a one-possession contest on a drive and layup by senior Krystal Parker. That bucket made the score 28-25 with 5:37 left in the game. Over the next four minutes though, the Vaqueros dashed any Sparks' hopes of a win with a 7-2 spurt en route to the victory.
Vandever led SHS with 11 points. Parker added nine points.
Although the contest resulted in a loss, that didn't keep Avilla from remaining optimistic about his team's small victories.
"They ran plays tonight. They're running through sets and they're executing. They're not panicking any more," he said. "We're working on just improving. They're coming together as a team and deciding that they can play this game. Things are starting to happen and they're starting to believe in themselves. It's coming along. No more two steps back."
Sparks (0-8) plays at Dayton Saturday at 2 p.m.