On the boys side, the High Desert League still has two open playoff slots. Reno has already clinched the conference crown. The Huskies (15-10, 11-1 HDL), who have now won back-to-back league titles, concluded HDL play Thursday night with a 53-50 win at Elko. The loss eliminated Elko from playoff contention.
Hug (14-10, 7-4), the lone team to beat Reno in league play this winter, is at Elko tonight for both teams’ league finale. However, the Hawks have locked up the HDL’s No. 2 seed.
Reno and Hug will host Northern 4A first-round tournament games Tuesday at 7 p.m. Reno will face Sierra League No. 4 seed Galena. Hug will get either Carson or Douglas.
The High Desert League’s third and fourth seeds are still up for grabs. That’s good news for Spanish Springs as the Cougars could finish as high as third or out of the playoff mix all together.
Spanish Springs (10-13, 4-6) does control its own destiny. The Cougars are at McQueen tonight at 7 p.m. and host Reed Saturday at 5 p.m. If the SSHS squad wins both, it is the third seed. A Spanish Springs loss Friday at McQueen would kill the Cougars’ postseason dreams.
However, if Spanish Springs beats the Lancers tonight, it could lose to cross-town rival Reed Saturday and still qualify for the regional tournament as the HDL’s fourth seed.
“We have to feel good because it’s in our own hands,” third-year Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We don’t have to rely on anybody else. I just hope the kids come out, play loose, relaxed and confident.”
If Spanish Springs does move into the regional bracket it will travel for a first-round playoff game Tuesday. The HDL’s third seed would leave Spanish Springs to travel to either Carson or Douglas. If the Cougars are the fourth seed, they would play at Sierra League champion Bishop Manogue (20-4, 13-0).
With a few more points here and there, Spanish Springs could be in a much different situation. Four of the Cougars’ six league losses have come by a combined 17 points.
“I hate to look back,” Penney said. “I believe things happen for a reason ... I hate to look back and have regrets. Even way back at the beginning of the season, I told the kids, ‘I think six wins will get us the third seed,’ and here we are. Hopefully, we’ll take care of business.”
Reed (3-16), the Rail City’s other 4A HDL program, has struggled to a 2-9 conference record. The Raiders will miss the regional tournament for the first time since the 2000-2001 season.
The scenarios for playoff berths in the High Desert League girls race are much simpler. Only the HDL’s fourth and final slot is still undecided.
Reno (22-4), the two-time defending Northern 4A champion, has concluded its league schedule with a perfect 12-0 mark. That means the Huskies are the HDL champions and will host a Northern 4A first-round tourney tilt Wednesday at 7 p.m. Reno will meet the Sierra League’s No. 4 seed, either Fallon or Douglas.
“It feels good. The girls have worked real hard to get that No. 1 seed,” fifth-year Huskies coach Shane Foster said. “To play at home in the first round makes it a little more comforting. I think we’re getting better, but I think all the teams are getting better. I like where we’re at. We’ll see what happens from here on out.”
Reed (13-5, 8-3) has secured the HDL’s No. 2 playoff seed. The Raiders have finished no worse than first or second in each of the past eight years. Reed has advanced to the Northern 4A title game in each of the last seven years.
“I think that speaks to how we’ve been building a program,” Reed coach Sara Schopper said. “We’ve graduated some pretty good kids, but we’ve still been getting kids who work hard and it’s showed. I think ours is a top-of-the-line program.”
Reed will host Sierra League No. 3 seed Carson Wednesday at 7 p.m.
North Valleys (17-8, 6-6) is the HDL’s No. 3 seed. The Panthers are done with league play. Still, as many as three teams could finish 6-6, but North Valleys owns all the tie-breakers.
The HDL’s fourth seed will go to either Hug or Spanish Springs. Hug (11-8) is 5-6 in conference affairs and hosts league cellar dweller Elko tonight. Spanish Springs (13-11) is 4-6 in league play but has two games remaining — at McQueen tonight at 5:15 p.m. and at home against Reed Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
Spanish Springs controls its own destiny. If the Cougars win both, they will advance to postseason play. However, assuming Hug beats last-place Elko, a loss to either McQueen or Reed would leave Spanish Springs watching the postseason for the first time in three years.
Hug or Spanish Springs will open the regional tourney Wednesday on the road against Sierra League champion Galena at 7 p.m.
The Northern 4A Tournament semifinals and finals, for both boys and girls, will be played at Spanish Springs High School Feb. 18-20.
In the 3A ranks, The Sparks boys own the 3A North League’s top playoff seed. The Railroaders (15-8) are 11-0 in league play and have earned a Northern 3A first-round tournament bye. Sparks finishes conference action tonight at Fernley, but will be the top seed regardless of whether it wins or loses.
“I’m very proud of our development and the kind of tenacity these kids have shown,” Sparks coach Dick Lee said. “They have aspired to keep that perfect league record, but they’ve focused on one game at a time and not gotten ahead of themselves.
“I certainly feel like we’re peaking at the right time. In practice, our work ethic is good. So as long we don’t have complacency, there’s room to improve.”
The Northern 3A Tournament will be played next weekend at the Winnemucca Events Center. Sparks will play Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. in a regional semifinal against the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal, pitting the fourth and fifth seeds. Those slots could still be any of five teams.