The Railroaders (1-14, 1-7) shrunk a 19-point second-half deficit against Fallon (5-7, 4-3) down to one with 48.2 seconds, but they could not get over the hump and were stuck with a 59-55 home loss.
“It just came down to our halftime, just talking about playing and competing and lighting some fires and I think they came out in the second half and scored a couple quick buckets and thought ‘wow this is how this works,’” Schreiber said. “So they spent the next 16 minutes and that’s what happens.”
Isaiah Campbell split a pair of free throws with 48.2 seconds to cut the massive second-half gap to one. Campbell finished with a game-high 30 points.
Fallon then missed the front-end of a one-and-one but the ball deflected off Sparks out of bounds. The Greenwave’s 6-foot 5-inch Jeff Evett hit one of his two free throws after a quick foul and Campbell’s would-be game-tying shot rolled around the rim before lipping out.
Evett corralled the rebound and hit both free throws to put his team up 59-55 with 12.7 seconds left and put the game away.
Fallon’s long junior gave the undersized Railroaders all kinds of trouble, particularly in the first half, before finishing with a team-high 22 points.
“I’ve got all the pistons but one. We are a seven-cylinder engine right now. We are just missing the big 6-foot 4-inch kid that’s just a presence…,” Schreiber said. “Every timeout I called, I watched the kids walk out on the floor and I told them every time ‘it really sucks,’ I’m the biggest guy in the timeout and I’m not a tall guy.”
Sparks grabbed its only lead of the game on its first possession when Campbell finished at the rim. Fallon finished the opening quarter on a 19-10 run and led 39-22 at the half.
“They were just on fire in the first half. They couldn’t miss. We talked at halftime about their transition game. They had probably 18-20 points in transition,” Schreiber said. “So take that away. They got two points in the second half versus 20 in transition. We cut that problem to almost nothing and that was a big thing.”
The hosts trailed 46-29 midway through the third quarter: Enter Mathew Ottoboni.
After not playing in the first half, Ottoboni went on a personal 8-0 run in his first minutes to cut the gap to single digits for the first time since the early minutes. Campbell’s pair of free throws with 5:35 left got Sparks within a single possession, 50-47.
Schreiber said Friday night was Ottoboni’s best game of the year. The junior finished with 10 points.
“It’s hard to lose,” Schreiber said. “But I think they felt the excitement of a high school basketball game that’s in contention with a minute to go.”
Sparks will try to pick up its second win of the season Tuesday at Truckee. The Railroaders lone win of the season came Dec. 19 over the Wolverines, 52-49.
In the girls matchup, Fallon ran away with a 50-19 DI-A North League victory over Sparks.
Sparks led 8-4 after the first quarter, but any momentum was quickly lost. Fallon proceeded to outscore Sparks 16-1 in the second period en route to taking a 20-9 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
Fallon went on to outscore Sparks 30-10 in the second half and was never threatened.
Carla Bergos was a bright spot for Sparks (1-12, 1-7). She buried a pair of 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 10 points, accounting for more than half of the Railroaders' offense.
Junior Ali Tedford (9-7, 6-1) led Fallon in scoring with 13 points.
"This loss was not for a lack of hustle," Sparks coach Frank Avilla said. "Our girls are working hard. At the pace we have to play to stick with teams, we can get exhausted. But we are getting more confidence. I saw more confidence on the court tonight. As far as effort, we're not lacking at all. We just are still having issues getting the ball to go through rim.
"We are at the midway point of our league schedule and I do look forward to the second half. Our learning curve is getting smaller. We could bring a couple wins together and play some closer games."
Sparks plays again Tuesday when it travels for a 6 p.m. league game at Truckee.