Following a first half in which neither side was able to get into a rhythym offensively, Sparks warmed up in the third quarter while the Dust Devils stayed cold. Holding Dayton to a mere three points over the eight minutes out of the intermission, the Maroon and Gold coasted to a 59-43 road victory Saturday afternoon.
Sparks (8-8, 3-2) took a slight 15-9 edge after the first quarter, but in the second quarter things slowed down for the Railroaders as they tallied just six points. The Dust Devils took advantage, jumping ahead 22-21 at the intermission. It would be the last lead Dayton would hold.
To open the second half, SHS switched from a man-to-man defense to a 3-2 zone, which in turn shut down the Dust Devils. Senior Bobby Brown then took advantage of Dayton’s zone, scoring eight straight points from the high post. When Brown got into foul trouble with his fourth midway through the third, sophomore Kevin Borja checked in and took over, scoring six unanswered points as Sparks scored the first 16 points of the third, a run that was the turning point of the contest.
While the Railroaders put the 16-0 run on the scoreboard to grab a 37-22 advantage, Dayton did not score its first point until the 1:20 mark of the third on a free throw.
"We were pretty cold shooting in the first half. We just could not hit a shot,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “So we made an adjustment in the second half defensively and I just told the kids to be patient because we weren’t missing threes or tough shots. We were missing six-footers. Then we started knocking down shots.
“We just kept our composure. Our shots just weren’t falling early and we waited it out. That’s why the game was so close. It was a much better second half than our first half.”
In the fourth quarter, the sides traded buckets as the Dust Devils were never able to string together a run to threaten Sparks’ lead.
Only five Railroaders recorded points in the game, but four finished with double-digits. Brown led the way with a game-high 18 points, along with 13 rebounds. Keiffer Putman tallied 14 points, six assists and five steals. Senior Mike Albior added 11 points and five steals, while D.J. Devine finished with 10 points.
Sparks will now get a week off before travelling to Zephyr Cove to visit Whittell Friday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
With a week until returning to action, Schreiber said his team will prepare to adjust to the challenges they will face in the Mount Rose.
“I really just want to focus on attacking the zone,” Schreiber said. “That was probably one of the bad things about playing such a hard preseason, all the teams we faced were man teams. Now we’re falling back to league play and we’ll most likely see some zones, but we haven’t really seen them all year. We’re anticipating on seeing the zone against Whittell, so we’re going to work on that just so the kids know where the shots are going to come from and how they are going to come about. It's lot different attack strategy with a zone rather than man.”
The Sparks girls basketball team was not as fortunate as its counterparts. After trailing at halftime by just three points with the score at 23-20, the Railroaders were not able to mount a comeback, falling to Dayton 45-32.
“We outplayed them for three quarters, and it was one bad quarter that got us,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “We did real well and ran some offensive sets, but we just couldn’t get it done. We’re learning and they’re coming along. We just have to settle down. The girls know how to do it, but they tend to panic a bit. The game was close and we could have broke through, so I think we’re making progress.”
Katelynn Vandever scored 15 points to lead the Railroaders while Krystal Parker tallied 13.
“We’re getting ready for our own league and I’m hoping to get a win in that win column,” Avilla said. “Other than in the book, Sparks High is winning all the way around. The kids are getting better. We’re a work in progress. They’re working hard.”
Sparks (0-8, 0-5) will face Whittell on Friday at 6 p.m.