As students in Washoe County wrapped up their semester last week, taking finals before a three-week break for the holidays, it’s a fitting time to send out progress reports for the three Rail City boys basketball teams.
Reed is in the best early position (from a standings perspective) while Spanish Springs and Sparks didn’t jump out to the hottest non-league starts but have played well in league meetings.
Spanish Springs Cougars
•At 5-4 overall, 2-1 in league games, coach Kyle Penney said he likes what he is seeing from his group but left no shortage of details of things his group needs to work on.
“We need to continue to improve on our fundamental habits,” Penney said. “Screening, using screens, importance of hard cuts, pivots, side steps, better passing, passing angles, and sealing before rebounding and putting the ball in the hoop.”
Unlike their extended break from class and homework, the Cougars had only a week to put a dent in Penney’s list since their last game — a 63-53 win over North Valleys — before competing in the Torrey Pines Classic in San Diego, starting today.
The Cougars started the season on a two-game skid, won the next three and have split their last four. Penney said playing with a greater normalcy is another facet his team needs to improve on as it approaches the thick of its league schedule.
“We are climbing the mountain trying to get better everyday and become consistent,” Penney said. “We have had some nights where we played great and we have had some nights where we haven’t, but we are working hard, listening and that will lead to improvement.”
The Cougars conclude their San Diego trip Monday before jumping into meaningful league games starting Jan. 10 at against Hug.
•The Raiders are 5-2 overall but more importantly for coach Dustin Hall and his group, they are 3-0 in league meetings.
“Record wise, we are obviously very pleased to be 3-0,” Hall said. “As far as where we are at, we have a long ways to go, and a lot to improve upon. And that is the exciting part. This team has a high ceiling, and they are working every day to try and get closer to that ceiling.”
Despite the team’s fruitful start to the season, Hall said the Raiders are behind because four players played on the state runner-up football squad that didn’t end its season until Dec. 7. The four players — Trae Wells, Cody DeHaan, Grayson Young and Ian Arao — missed the first four games of the season because they did not have enough practices to be eligible.
“We definitely are behind schedule,” Hall said. “There are a lot of things we haven’t even put in yet just because we are still playing catch up with the football guys but Christmas Break will give us an opportunity to try and catch up.”
Hall said he has liked his Raiders’ ability to fight “adversity” and that they’re “not afraid to face adversity,” but said his team still needs to improve in all areas of the game.
The Raiders play in the Las Vegas Prep Championship, which runs tonight through Monday before jumping back into league play Jan. 7 at home against Wooster.
•The Railroaders’ 1-8 overall record (1-1 in league) may be the most misleading statistic of the young prep basketball season.
Five of Sparks’ eight losses this winter have come to DI opponents and the Railroaders’ one league loss, 50-47 at Dayton Friday, was significantly impacted by a controversial technical foul against the Sparks coaching staff in the final seconds. The Railroaders led by three with 10 seconds left.
“We are right where we need to be going into the holiday break,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “The kids are responding well to the adjustments we have made since November. The kids feel good with a 1-1 league record and both games were down to the last possession, so with such a new group this year, their confidence is beginning to grow.”
Sparks has just three seniors on its roster.
Schreiber’s group has struggled from the free throw line early this season, shooting in the low 40-percent range as a team, and Schreiber hopes to bump that number to 60 percent as break winds down.
“I am really excited. They are really fun to watch, especially when teams first look at our lack of size and we take it right at them, scrapping in every possession,” Schreiber said. “I really like this group. They work hard and are developing that attitude of not backing down to anyone during the 32 minutes of play.”
Sparks is the lone Rail City squad taking a break more than a week between games over the Holiday break and it doesn’t play again until traveling to Winnemucca Jan. 3 to play Lowry – which is considered one of the best teams in the state.
A report on the three Sparks girls basketball teams will be in Tuesday’s issue.