Sparks (7-7, 3-0 3A North) trailed 39-33 in the fourth quarter with 6:15 left to play when Guillen found his stride. The Sparks senior scored back-to-back buckets, a jumper and a layup, with an added free throw to pull his team within one point of the visiting Buckaroos, 39-38.
“I just told them, this is a winnable game. Do you want to win this game?” Sparks coach Dick Lee said. “All five of them said 'yeah.' I told them '’his is going to be a gut check. It's not going to be easy. Except
they're tired. They're fatigued. Work the offense. Make them chase you around the court. They're not going to be able to guard you.’”
On Sparks' next trip down the court, Andrew Garcia downed a three, on an assist by Guillen, who had pulled down a rebound on the other end of the floor. That put the Railroaders ahead, 41-39. Sparks did not trail again in the game.
“I thought we played extremely well,” Lee said. “We're getting better at what we're trying to do everyday, every practice. The seniors are on a mission to pull out their senior year on a real successful note and the underclassmen are trying to help them.”
Guillen took a charge on the defensive end, giving Sparks the ball back and Martin Jordan made it worthwhile finishing with for a layup on the tail end of a 12-0 run for Sparks that left 3:57 on the clock.
Lowry ended the drought on a layup by David Eastman off a Sparks turnover. Guillen pushed Sparks' lead back to six with a jumper from the top of the key for a 47-41 lead.
With fewer than two minutes left, Guillen went coast-to-coast with a steal and a dunk for Sparks. He was then whistled for a foul and Andrew Stephen made both of his foul shots to keep Lowry within an arm's reach, down 49-45.
Sparks' Martin and Garcia scored back-to-back buckets, both assisted by Guillen, for a 54-47 edge with 40 seconds left on the game clock en route to the 55-49 final.
“This win doesn't mean we're going to win in Winnemucca but it helps our kids believe,” Lee said. “I'm happy we had success.”
The teams were tied in the first quarter at 10 each. In the second, Lowry got a jump on Sparks with a 7-0 run to take a 23-18 lead over the host Railroaders. Sparks turned around with a 7-0 run of its own, capped by a Guillen three-point basket to retake the lead, 25-23 lead.
A late foul with 11 seconds left in the half gave Lowry's Sterling Snow two free points to tie things at 25 heading into the break.
“I thought we played very well,” Lee said of the first half. “I thought we might have lost our concentration in a few places in the second half.”
Sparks struggled in the third as it was outscored 12-8 by Lowry. A pick and bucket by Guillen with 6:20 left in the third capped a 6-0 run from Sparks, which went cold after that. Sparks didn't score again in the period. Lowry, on the other hand, struck up a 9-0 run in the final six minutes of the third.
“They have the best personnel in our league,” Lee said about Lowry. “They have tournament experience. I think they returned seven guys off of last year's varsity ... They're going to be one of the best teams.”
With Bryan Orellana on the bench for Sparks with four fouls, Henry Banks saw some increased playing time, but fouled out with 28 seconds left in the third, with his team trailing 37-33.
Sparks got its first basket in the fourth quarter at the 5:56 mark, when Guillen got that initial jumper. The Railroaders had not scored for eight minutes and 24 seconds.
Guillen had a game-high 24 points, 12 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Guillen did notscore in the first half. Garcia chipped in 14 points of his own for the Railroaders.
“I like that kind of game out of Angel,” Lee said. “I like that kind of game where he lets his teammates kind of have some success and do well early and when the game gets on the line, we need him and he stepped up.”
For Lowry, Joel Mendoza posted 14 points and Will Thacker added 13 for the Buckaroos.
Sparks was short-handed Friday with only eight players suited up to play. Seven saw game action. Sparks is down two players, one to ineligibility and another to a hip injury.
Sparks has a short turnaround, facing a matchup against Spring Creek today at 3:30 p.m. Spring Creek also played Friday night, on the road against Fernley High School.
The Sparks girls preceded the boys contest, but fell to Lowry 63-12.
“We just can't score,” Sparks coach Tony Shaw said. “We played good defense. We rebounded. We hustled.”
Shaw said once his team falls behind, it loses focus and tries to do things beyond its means.
“It's going to be a long season if we can't make free throws or a few shots.”
Sparks (0-7, 0-3) trailed 20-2 after the first quarter. The squad scored just two points in the second and fourth quarters as well, with sixth in the third. Gaby Diaz was the only Railroader to score more than two points, finishing with four.
Sparks hosts Spring Creek today at 2 p.m.