In a contest that saw neither side give an inch through the first 24 minutes of the game, it was the final eight minutes that settled the score. Luckily for Sparks, it was in favor of the Railroaders as SHS walked away with a 52-42 victory.
After Sparks jumped ahead of the Vikings 17-12 at the end of the first quarter, South Tahoe fought its way back in the second quarter to re-take the lead. At the intermission STHS had grabbed a slight 27-26 edge over the Railroaders.
To start the second half, more of the back-and-forth battle ensued. With both sides contesting every possession, a low-scoring third quarter left the scoreboard reading 37-37 with a quarrter remaining in the contest.
From there Sparks (17-8, 12-2 MRL) held the Vikings to just five points in the closing eight minutes as SHS slowly separated itself for the double-digit win.
“It was a tight, hard-fought game,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “We just kind of were able to open it up in the fourth quarter, and probably not until the last two minutes. We changed our defenses a lot tonight just to try to keep them off balance. We just wanted to keep them off balance and not find a rhythm in the second half.
“Offensively, we just took advantage of the big court that they have and really spread it out. We ran a dribble-dribble-drive. In the first half we struggled with it because the court was so big, so we had to make adjustments just based on the size of the court. In the second half, it was pretty much night and day. That was pretty much the difference in the game. We got inside on them.”
Although the fourth seed would have also given the Railroaders a home game in the first round of the playoffs, Schreiber said grabbing the victory to ensure the No. 3 spot was important for more than just seeding reasons.
“Getting the third seed is huge, but just to get the win is big because South Tahoe’s gym, next to Lowry’s gym, is probably the hardest gym to play at in the state I think,” he said. “So to get that three seed and keep that momentum going, it gives the kids confidence right now. They’re playing pretty well and hopefully they can carry that into next week’s playoffs.”
Sparks will close out its regular season today at home against Incline. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m.
“This is a little glimpse of what we’re hopefully going to see next week,” Schreiber said. “We’re going to have to play two games back-to-back if we’re going to get through this thing. And Incline is a good team that just beat South Tahoe last week by three. So this is going to be a good little test for us in 17 hours to play another game.”
For three quarters, the Lady Railroaders were in the thick of things against South Tahoe, but unfortunately for the Maroon and Gold, it all unraveled in the final eight minutes as the Vikings cruised to a 44-25 victory.
To open the contest, both teams were slow out of the gate as scoring was limited. Through the first quarter, South Tahoe doubled up the Railroaders as it took a 10-5 advantage at the end of one period of play.
In the second quarter, the Railroaders rallied back behind a stellar defensive effort that saw them flip the script from the first eight minutes of the game. Limiting the Vikings to five points, Sparks used the momentum from a Krystal Parker 3-pointer to pull itself within one with the score 15-14 at halftime.
Out of the intermission, Sparks kept things close for a quarter before South Tahoe ran away with the game in the fourth. Down by six at the end of the third quarter, the Railroaders watched as the home team dominated the game’s last eight minutes en route to the 19-point win.
“It was a good game all the way down to the fourth quarter,” Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. “We had a lot of confidence going for us. We handled the ball well and we moved it properly when they pressed us. We played defense very well. We were mismatched at times, but we did well with that. It was just our transition defense. We struggled a couple times picking up our man and sticking with them.
“We hung with them all the way through the first three. We were playing tough and then the wheels fell off a little bit as far as handling some pressure. The girls just got a little tired.”
Parker led the Railroaders on the night, tallying 14 points, including four triples from the senior guard.
Sparks (3-14, 3-7 Mount Rose League) will close out its season today as it hosts Incline at 2 p.m. Avilla is hoping the Railroaders can go out on a high note.
“I just want to see positivity and hustle. I would love to see them put a complete game together,” he said. “They’ve gone through adversity this year and they’ve handled it. Our record may not show it, but we have been in a lot of games and it’s just come down to our youthfulness with the game. So I want to see them put that all together in their final game. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”