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Prep hoop programs take different approaches to holiday break
by Dan Eckles
Dec 25, 2009 | 980 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs boys basketball coach Kyle Penney talks strategy with players during the team's Wednesday workout.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs boys basketball coach Kyle Penney talks strategy with players during the team's Wednesday workout.
Washoe County schools are in the thick of their two-week Christmas break. Local prep basketball programs are taking different approaches to the extended time off from class.

At Spanish Springs, both the girls and boys hoop teams are headed to out-of-state post-Christmas tournaments. Conversely, the teams at Reed and Sparks highs are getting in some extra uninterrupted practice time.

The Spanish Springs boys are going to southern California for the second straight year to compete in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic at Torrey Pines, played in San Diego.

The Cougars (5-5) played in a tournament last weekend in east suburban Sacramento, but then got four straight days of practice, a rarity for prep teams in December.

“We’re excited to go down to San Diego,” said Spanish Springs assistant coach John Rogers, who has had some extra coaching chores over the past week with head coach Kyle Penney and his wife having their third child. “We’ve worked hard this week in practice. We hope we’ve corrected some mistakes and improved on the things we’ve been doing in the past.”

The tournament will run Saturday through Thursday with a day off on Sunday. Undoubtedly, Cougar players and coaches will enjoy the warmer San Diego weather and a few tourist attractions, but Rogers stressed the purpose of the trip is to become a better basketball team.

“We have one day where we’re going to go as team to either one of the zoos or parks,” Rogers said. “We’ll find something to do, but we are telling the kids we’re going down to play basketball. It’s not a vacation. Sure, we want to have some fun but our main focus is on tournament.

“We don’t have a clue of the talent level we’re going to see, but we’re hoping we get some good competition that makes us work hard.”

The Spanish Springs girls played Wednesday night, downing Colfax, Calif., 49-42, after an eight-day layoff. It was the Cougars’ longest stretch all season without a game.

The girls got Christmas Eve and Christmas day off before working out again today. Spanish Springs (7-4) then gets Sunday off before traveling to play in the four-day, 16-team Bulldog Invitational hosted by Folsom (Calif.) High School. Spanish Springs opens tourney play Monday at 7:30 p.m. against Franklin of Elk Grove, Calif.

“That was kind our long break without games,” SSHS girls coach Christine Eckles said, alluding to the recent eight-day layoff. “I think it was good for us. We got to work on a few things and I believe we’ve gotten better. Now, we’ll get our last few non-league games with this tournament. We’ll have some fun and hopefully be ready for league.”

At Reed, the Raiders’ boys team is working through a two-week break from game action. The Raiders have struggled to a 1-9 start to their season. Reed played its 10 games in an 18-day stretch that allowed for only five practices between contests.

That has left second-year Raiders coach Dustin Hall ecstatic to get back into the gym for consecutive practices.

“I think this is exactly what this particular team needed,” Hall said Wednesday. “We’ve had so many distractions over the past month, getting our football players in late and then suffering a few injuries and having people out of town. We’ve never had time to work on things. We’ve never gotten into a good rhythm. It’s tough to correct things on the fly. The last few days have been great. We’ve had time to work on our weaknesses.”

The RHS boys played last Saturday in the Carson tournament but do not play again until starting the bulk of their High Desert League schedule Jan. 5 at home against Reno.

“I think we played so many games so quickly, we couldn’t tell one game from the next,” Hall said. “Now we can kind of take a step back ... We need to understand why we’re losing. And the kids will see that as we break down film. If we can correct things in practice, we’ll be successful. We’ve got a chance to step back and see why we’re struggling instead of just knowing that we are indeed struggling.”

The Reed girls team is taking a similar approach to their male counterparts. Reed (5-2) hosts perennial 3A power Spring Creek Monday at 1 p.m. but it is the Raiders’ lone game over the holiday break. In fact, Reed is in a three-week stretch where it plays just two games.

“We’re young and still trying to find our roles,” Reed girls coach Sara Schopper said. “We’re doing some double days right now, taking a lot of time to shoot and get in individual skill work. We want to be ready for league when we get back from break and we wanted some rest too.”

Reed, one of the top girls programs in the state over the past 25 years, has gone to the highly competitive West Coast Jamboree in the east Bay Area in recent seasons, but passed on the trip this winter.

“I wanted to spend more time with this group on the court. I also think the girls will be a little more hungry to play and excited to get back on the court for games. Sometimes, we’ve gone to the Bay Area for four or five days and gotten a little burnt out. Then you don’t have time to recuperate before league. I think the girls will work hard now over break, but I also think they’ll be ready to get back.”

At Sparks high, the Railroader boys (4-7) hosted their annual Rail City Classic last weekend. They have a non-league game Tuesday against Incline, but it’s the lone game on their schedule during the holiday break.

The Sparks girls (0-4) last played Dec. 12 but do not play again until their 3A North League debut against Dayton Jan. 8.
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