The game was slow to begin, as the two teams went back and forth over the first quarter and a half. From there, the Railroaders took control of the game, gradually easing away throughout the remainder of the contest for the victory over North Tahoe, which sits in last place in Mount Rose League .
“It was a real slow start,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “We got in a lot of different rotations, a lot of substitutions. We worked on a little bit different press look, trying to run-and-jump the ball. I think we caught onto it eventually with looking for that weak side rotation to get that steal. That helped us start to open it up. We were trying different things in today’s game, trying out different looks so that we can use them as we go into the playoffs. Taking a look at what might work, what may not work.”
The first quarter came to an end with the game all knotted up at 10-10. The tie remained at the 4:07 mark of the second with the score 15-15 before the Maroon and Gold began to take control.
Using a 3-pointer from junior guard Keiffer Putman, followed by five straight points from forward D.J. Devine, Sparks went on an 8-1 run to end the first half with a 23-16 advantage.
On the strength of six points from senior Erik Garcia, Sparks pushed its lead to double-digits to open the third quarter, grabbing a 31-20 lead three minutes into the second half. The Lakers cut the lead down to six with 3:38 to play in the third, but SHS guard Xavier Rodriguez halted the comeback effort with a trey from the wing and a scoop layup that ignited a 9-4 Railroaders spurt to end the quarter with the scoreboard reading 40-28.
Still not quite out of the woods, the Maroon and Gold used a full-court press to put the game away. Holding the Lakers in their half of the court and forcing six turnovers in less than four minutes, Sparks scored 15 unanswered points to open the fourth quarter and essentially ice the game. Sparks extended its lead to 55-28 with 4:08 to play.
“That’s been kind of our thing all year, is to use our pressure,” Schreiber said. “If you look at a lot of our season, teams that are regularly putting up 60 or 70 points, you’ll see in our boxscores, we’re holding them in the 50s and 40s. Our pressure has been there all year. We’re just looking at different combinations right now.”
As has been the case all throughout the season, the Railroaders had a balanced scoring effort as three players notched double-digit points.
Garcia led the team with 14 points while Devine and Rodriguez chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Senior forward Barry Bow added nine points on the night.
North Tahoe (4-16, 0-8) had just a single player in double-digits, as senior forward Brendon Arnold recorded a game-high 18 points.
The Maroon and Gold shot 24-of-60 (40 percent) from the field while North Tahoe went 16-of-48 (33.3 percent). The Railroaders also won the rebounding battle, grabbing 28 rebounds over the Lakers 21.
Sparks (18-6, 7-2) will close out its regular season as it hosts Whittell on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and then waits to play either Fernley or Dayton next weekend in the first round of the Northern 3A playoffs.
The Sparks girls basketball team grabbed an early lead against visiting North Tahoe, but seven points over the two middle quarters and a dominating performance by the Lakers on the glass doomed the Railroaders as they fell 42-31 Tuesday evening.
Without its three-point shooting specialist Krystal Parker in the game due to an illness, the Maroon and Gold had to search for someone else to step up to give it a chance at victory.
It appeared at first as though the team would fill the void together as three different players knocked down the first five shot attempts of the game, including triples from guards Katlynn Vandever and Stephanie Parker. The early perfect shooting catapulted the Railroaders to a 12-2 lead five minutes into the contest, but the hot shooting would not last long.
Missing its last four shots of the quarter, Sparks hit a free throw to take a 13-7 lead at the end of the first.
From there, the Railroaders would go scoreless in the second quarter as they missed all 10 of their shot attempts.
On the other end of the court, the shooting was not much better, but North Tahoe gave itself second, third and even fourth chances with an overpowering effort on the offensive glass. Hitting 3-of-19 from the field in the quarter (15.8 percent), the Lakers grabbed 15 rebounds in comparison to the four of Sparks. Heading into halftime, North Tahoe held a 16-13 advantage on the scoreboard.
Out of the break, the poor shooting and rebounding themes carried over into the rest of the game as the Maroon and Gold could not clean up the boards.
Starting the third off with two buckets from forward Emma Clune, the Railroaders grabbed the lead back from North Tahoe on a corner trey from Vandever, going up 20-18 four minutes into the quarter. That would be the final lead of the night for Sparks.
Snatching 10 rebounds over the final four minutes of the third quarter, the Lakers scored the final five points to head into the fourth with the score 23-20 in their favor.
The Railroaders kept the game close at 29-27 with 4:35 to play, but North Tahoe took over the rest of the game, outscoring Sparks 13-2 over a three-minute span to seal the victory.
Vandever led the Railroaders with 14 points.
The Lakers were led by sophomore guard Angela Wood and senior forward Samantha Jeffers, who tallied 11 points each. Junior guard Liz Buhler added 10 points to the California school's winning effort.
North Tahoe (7-10, 3-3) more than doubled up the Maroon and Gold on rebounds, 56-23. The Lakers shot 16-of-77 (20.8 percent) while the Railroaders were 12-of-42 (28.6 percent).
Sparks (3-14, 1-8) will wrap its season at home against Whittle on Friday at 6 p.m.