The Railroaders travelled to Whittell High School for a Mount Rose League affair and for the first time this season left the gym with a victory in the books. Although Sparks fell behind early on, the Lady Railroaders kept things close heading into the fourth quarter of play. From there, the defense took over as Sparks outscored the Warriors 16-7 in the final eight minutes to seize a 40-34 victory.
“We struggled in the first half, but the girls finally put it together and didn’t play nervous and we got out of here with a win,” Avilla said. “They finally just calmed down and played. We went into a full-court press and the girls responded real well to that. They’re really starting to grasp the full game and that showed. I’m not going to get overconfident and neither are the girls, but this is a good stepping stone.”
At halftime, Sparks trailed by a bucket with the score at 22-20. Whittell extended its slim edge to 27-24 at the end of the third quarter as both teams were slow out of intermission. Fortunately for the Railroaders, they were the first to get things going once the fourth quarter began.
“I’m pleased to see some of the light bulbs come on,” Avilla said. “They’re responding to what we are practicing. We’re improving each and every day we step on the court. They’re starting to get mentally tough as well as physically. As a coach, when you see those aspects, you have to be happy.”
On the way to victory, Sparks received a pleasant surprise in the scorebook as junior Gabby Morgan finished with a game-high 17 points, leading the Railroaders to the win. Senior Katelynn Vandever also chipped in 13 points while Krystal Parker accounted for seven points.
“Gabby stepped up big for us tonight,” Avilla said of Morgan’s performance. “Getting 17 points from her was huge. She got herself to the free-throw line and she knocked down 7-of-10. As a junior, she’s coming into her own and I’m really proud of her. She’s working really hard.”
Sparks (1-9, 1-5) will look for a repeat today as it host Truckee at 2 p.m.
On the boys’ side of things, the Railroaders got off to a slow start against Whittell but managed to distance themselves from the Warriors toward the end of the game en route to a comfortable 57-49 Mount Rose League victory Friday night.
Sparks (9-8, 3-2 MRL) built a favorable lead midway through the contest and from there never looked back. Despite the double-digit win though, Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said his team could have played better.
“We played a little bit sloppy,” he said. “We started really slow, but we were able to build a 10 or 12-point lead at half. We held the margin at about 15 most of the way through the game, but we didn’t really finish the game early. We were sloppy and never really pulled ahead like we could have.”
The Railroaders now turn right around to host Truckee today at 3:30 p.m. in a game that is crucial to positioning for the postseason.
“This game is huge,” Schreiber said. “This is a big game with Truckee. A win pretty much guarantees us at least a four seed. That would give us a home game in the first round of the playoffs, so that’s big. We have to make sure we come out a little more aggressive and efficient than we did tonight and we have to take care of the ball.”