Behind a dominating performance on the boards on both ends of the court that saw Sparks outrebound the Lakers 33-14, including 15 offensive boards, the Maroon and Gold controlled the game from the opening tip for a decisive 63-42 home victory.
“This was a step in the right direction,” Schreiber said. “Tonight we saw one of the missing pieces that hasn’t been there consistently. A lot our success tonight was just on second effort and the board presence around the glass with second shots. We know we can shoot the ball well, and now hopefully we can put those two things together, because that will be key for us.”
Sparks (16-8, 11-2 MRL) started the game with three bigs on the court in seniors Fernando Borja, D.J. Devine and Geo Vazquez. Immediately their presence was felt.
Over the opening seven minutes of the contest, the Railroaders grabbed 12 rebounds in comparison to North Tahoe's three. The Lakers missed their first five shots of the game and Sparks grabbed each defensive rebound, not allowing the visitors any easy buckets. The Railroaders also went to work on the offensive glass as they converted a handful of easy put-backs en route to a 17-0 edge. North Tahoe did not score its first points of the game until the 1:09 mark as the Railroaders led 17-4 at the end of one.
Sparks put the same method to work to start the second quarter as Devine and Adam Morgan both grabbed a board around the offensive rim for a pair of putbacks. Senior Keiffer Putman then drained a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key. Two more buckets rounded out an 11-2 run for the Railroaders as they widened the gap to 28-6 at the midway point of the second quarter. North Tahoe did score the final eight points of the first half to bring the margin to 28-14 at halftime.
Out of the break, Sparks grabbed more offensive boards and got moere points in the paint as it used a 19-7 run to open the second half. That included a stretch of nine unanswered. The spurt put the hosts on top 47-23 with a minute to play in the third quarter. A pair of Lakers’ free throws followed by a trade of threes left the scoreboard reading 50-26 with a quarter remaining.
The game would close with the sides exchanging seven straight triples as Sparks went on to coast to the victory.
Devine led the winning effort for the Railroaders, posting a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Putman tallied 11 points on the night, while Morgan and Vasquez both chipped in with eight points apiece. The Railroaders scored 36 points in the paint.
Sparks will now get set to hit the road for a contest Friday at South Tahoe in a game that will determine the third and fourth seed for the playoffs. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. Schreiber said he is hoping to see more of the same from his team against the Vikings.
“Our second effort and those second chances are huge, especially as we come down this home stretch,” he said. “We knew we had that ability. With our primary scoring and hopefully our cleaning up on the glass, I think we have a prescription that’s going to be pretty tough.”
The Lady Railroaders also were victorious Tuesday evening, barely holding on for a 29-28 decision over North Tahoe.
After the Lakers opened the initial scoring with a free throw, Sparks scored 14 of the next 16 points to seize a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Railroaders would maintain their double-digit lead into the intermission with the score at 22-12.
A slow third quarter for the Railroaders could have proved fatal as the home team managed just three points, but the visitors did not fare much better with four points. That left the score 25-16 with eight minutes to play.
An exchange of layups kept the margin at nine points with the score at 27-18 with 6:08 to play, put a frantic comeback effort by the Lakers quickly closed the gap.
North Tahoe forced five consecutive turnovers as it strung together a 10-2 run over the next five minutes. With a minute left and just one-point separating the two teams, neither side was able to find the bucket as Sparks held on for the win.
While the Railroaders did not fill up the stat sheet, as the highest scorers were Roxie Guadron and Maricar Diaz with six points each, Sparks had eight different players chip in for the victory.
“That’s what we’ve been working on this year. It wasn’t fair for us to put the whole burden on one person’s shoulders,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “So we have been trying to create more movement and more shots, and the kids have been buying in. I would have liked to see more points, but it was a complete effort. We’re still getting better.”
Sparks (3-13, 3-6) will visit South Tahoe on Friday at 6 p.m.