At Spanish Springs High School, the girls basketball team has worked its way to 15-4 record, with a 6-2 mark in league. While the Cougars’ performance thus far is good enough for third in the High Desert League behind perennial state powers Reed and Reno, SSHS coach Christine Eckles said she wants more from her team in the second half of the season.
“There’s been good and bad,” Eckles said. “We’ve taken care of the games that I think we should be winning. We haven’t had any slip-ups so that’s a good thing. I think we’re one of the top four programs in the area and I think we’ve proven that so far, so I feel okay about it.
“I wish we could have got the Manogue game though. We knew it was going to be a tough game and a challenge, so I’m a little disappointed that we came out on the losing end of that, both the Manogue game and the Reno game. Those are great teams and I think we have chances to beat those types of teams.”
Although the Cougs will not have a chance to see Manogue again until the playoffs, a rematch with Reno is on the slate in a week — on Jan. 25. In order for Spanish Springs to get over the hump, Eckles said it will need a little more consistency.
“Everything we do is built on the foundation that you have to rebound, defend and take care of the basketball. If we do those things, we have chances to be in each and every game. But the one thing that’s come back to bite us both in the Manogue game and the Reno game is we had quarters or five-minute stretches where we struggled offensively to score,” Eckles said. “I think if we make sure we take care of our foundation and we eliminate those scoring droughts, then I think we have the ability to compete with and beat anybody. Those are the things we’re working on and focusing on playing hard for four quarters.”
While the Lady Cougars are hoping to avoid a lack of scoring during the second half of the season, so will the boys team.
After starting D-I North play with a 5-1 record, Spanish Springs has faltered of late, dropping its last two league contests. During its early run, the Cougars averaged 63.7 points a contest while holding opponents to 52.3 points per game. In the two defeats, SSHS scored an average of 60 while the opponent’s average jumped up to 66.
“Our defense was atrocious,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said following the Cougars’ latest loss. “We had a hard time guarding the ball. Fundamental things are the difference and we’re taking a lot of them for granted … We’ve got to get back to our defensive responsibilities. There’s a system in place. We need the dedication and pride to do the little things.”
Another Rail City team looking for more consistency during the second part of its schedule will be the Reed boys basketball team, who is currently sitting at 8-6 overall and 4-3 in the Division I North.
Although the Raiders got off a to a slow start in league with a pair of losses kicking off the High Desert League slate, the Raiders bounced back and are now in the thick of the playoff race with a 4-3 league mark.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “We survived December which always seems to be a goal for us with all the uncertainties as far as all the football guys and how well they’ll come in and adapt. We’ve put ourselves in a position to make a playoff push. We didn’t play our way out of it, so that’s definitely good. We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of improving to do if we want to have a chance to contend next month.”
One of the areas that Hall said he believes his team can improve upon during its final nine games of the season is a little more steadiness.
“We’ll play some really good quarters or some really good spurts of basketball, but then we’ll back it up with some bad quarters and dry spell,” he said. “I think as we improve we need to become a little more consistent with our execution. We’ve yet to really put a full game together. To beat some of the teams we’re going to have to beat, we’re going to definitely need to put better stretches of basketball together more consistently.
“It’s a mix of both mental and physical aspects. As far as physically, we just have to be a little more consistent defensively. We are still giving up a lot of easy baskets on break downs. We need to be a little more stubborn on that end. Offensively, we haven’t been scoring the ball and shooting the ball consistently. We can definitely improve our efficiency on offense.”
Coming off a state championship in 2012, the Lady Raiders have gotten off to the start they were looking for, jumping atop the D-I North with an 8-0 record.
“With all the shoes we had to fill with the seniors we lost last year, I’m happy with where we are, Reed coach Sara Ramirez said. “We played almost everybody once so far and we’ve come up with W’s. The key thing is to stay focused and keep developing so that when we play everyone else for the second time, we’re right there as well.”
A large part to Reed’s success has been the performance on the floor that has come from both the starters and the bench.
“The team has actually stepped up really well. Every game I get a new person stepping up,” Ramirez said. “Brooke Cervantes has done a really good job handling the ball. Tina Vernon is doing a really good job in the post and the rest of them are getting there. They’re setting solid screens, they’re boxing out and they’re playing hard defense. All of those little things will add up big in the long run.”
At Sparks High School, the Sparks boys basketball team is preparing to dive into Mount Rose League play, and Railroaders coach Dan Schreiber said his squad is exactly where it wants to be.
“I think this is right where we wanted to be back in November,” he said. “We talked about coming out of Christmas break when we got into pod play, where did we want to be and it’s pretty much right where we’re at.
“The kids got a lot of our offensive and defensive sets down. They’re really starting to understand what we’re coming to the table with as far as scouting reports and how we want to attack different teams from different angles and different perspectives. We’re really on that cusp of looking at something pretty good.”
In order for the Railroaders to capitalize on that cusp and also a possible MRL title, Schreiber said the Maroon and Gold will have to have to improve in a number of areas.
“Defensively, some of the things we need to do better is control the second shots some of our opponents have gotten at times,” he said. “I think our game against Dayton was a good example. They got some key second shots that really kept them in the game early. So that’s huge for us now to control that second shot.
“Offensively it’s really just finding our stroke, finding our shots. We struggled in certain games where we couldn’t find the basket at all. The ball just wouldn’t fit in the rim in some games for us so we really just need to work on that confidence factor of ‘Hey, sooner or later it’s going to start to fall.’ Going back to Dayton, it was the same scenario. The first half we couldn’t find the basket, but in the second half we opened on a 16-point run. It’s just that part of the game of having the confidence in ourselves during the game to keep shooting it and it will start to fall.”
On the girls side of things, the Lady Railroaders have struggled through their first part of the season. While Sparks is still in search of its first victory, SHS coach Frank Avilla is remaining optimistic about the prospects ahead.
“We’re getting better. We’re getting a lot more rebounds. We’re converting on our layups and our free throws. The girls just want more and are starting to play as a team together. I think that just comes with time on the court. They just continue to work hard and they’re catching up to the curve. We’re headed in the right direction.
“I’m just seeing that they are playing with more confidence. I’m seeing that they understand the game a little more and they’re continuing to work a lot harder than I’ve seen them in the past. It’s obvious we have a lot to grow on, but I think at this point we’re willing to grow on it and learn it. I still think there are wins to come for this group and I hope I’m not wrong. I have confidence in them and I don’t think that is overconfidence.”