Assistant coach Frank Avilla took over the team and helped guide the program through a long season that saw some improvements by the Maroon and Gold.
Avilla, who also coaches boys soccer and softball at the Rail City’s oldest school, hopes he will be back on the sidelines next season in order to carry on what the program started this winter.
“They improved immensely. They learned how to play basketball. They moved the ball correctly. It’s a start in the right direction,” Avilla said. “Now if they can follow up with summer programs, I think we’re going to be making a turning point at Sparks High. They know what’s required of them. This summer and fall sessions, it will be interesting to see if they buy in. They need to want to get better instead of picking up a ball a week before the season starts.”
Sparks finished the season with three wins, sweeping Whittell in Mount Rose League action and knocking off North Tahoe by one point in the teams’ second meeting. But neither of those opponents are in the Division I-A, so the Railroaders weren’t threatening to qualify for the postseason.
Sparks will lose leading scorer Krystal Parker to graduation, but Avilla feels like there is a solid core returning.
“Roxie Guadron was all-league second team and she’s one of our guards. I’m excited about all of them coming back,” Avilla said. “I think they understand the importance of the task at hand. They want to get recognized for their girls athletics at Sparks. Our boys are doing well in our winter sports, and the girls are fighting to do that, too. I think they realize it will take hard work to get there.”
Under head coach Dan Schreiber, the Sparks boys basketball team has made it a habit of playing top competition in non-league play in order to be battle tested for the remainder of the campaign. This year was much of the same even though it didn’t lead to many early season victories.
Sparks took on four of the eight teams that made the D-I North regional tournament, including regional champion Hug twice.
The Railroaders were only 6-8 before rattling off 13 straight victories. The 13th victory took Sparks into the Division I-A North Region semifinals in a matchup against Lowry, a team that beat Sparks 53-30 in mid-December.
The defending state champion Buckaroos got all they could handle the second time around. The Winnemucca school utilized an 8-1 run over the final 1:24 of the game to win by four.
Sparks finished the year with a 19-9 mark and will graduate seven seniors. Leading the way for the Railroaders was senior Keiffer Putman and his 14.6 points per game. Putman also knocked down a team-high 75 3-pointers.
Senior D.J. Devine also scored in double figures with 11 points an outing. Senior Bobby Brown averaged 9.6 points per game. Both he and Devine pulled down six rebounds a game.