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Basketball teams wind down regular season

LARA MULLIN, Sierra Sun

While their season record of 1-19 may not paint the picture of a successful basketball team, the Wolverine boys’ team can feel confident about their season for many reasons.

Back in November, Coach Mike Gray had a cluster of players to work with who had virtually no varsity team experience. He had a single player returning from the 1999-2000 season, and a long few months ahead of him.

Over the past few months, the team has struggled with court basics: offense, rebounding, teamwork and overall confidence as a team. After 20 games and numerous disappointments, this young team is finally coming together to play ball the way the game was meant to be played.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, the Wolverines took on Rite Of Passage for the second time this season. The first meeting resulted in a whopping 30-point victory for a deep and skillful ROP bench. Wednesday’s game revealed a stronger, more solid TNT effort, as the Wolverines lost by only nine points.

“We are finally coming together instead of being intimidated, we came out and played and I am very pleased about that,” said Coach Gray.

After their first crushing victory, ROP came out strong from the buzzer scoring 26 points in the first quarter. Truckee slowed the game down, regrouped and matched ROP with 17 points in the second quarter to end the half down by 16.

Rather than following this season’s trend of slowing down in the second half, the Wolverines turned up their play on the court and outscored ROP in the fourth quarter by eight points.

Junior Jarrad Gifford led the Wolverines with 18 points for the day, and freshman J.R. Murphy followed him with 16. Their efforts came up just short of a win, as ROP hit virtually every basket that they attempted. The Truckee defense was tight and effective, covering ROP’s shooters well.

“They just hit everything and there is nothing you can do about that,” said Gray.

The Wolverines played at home again on Friday, Feb. 2 against Lowry, one of the best teams in the league. While eventually losing 72-50, Truckee remained in the game and held the Buckaroos’ leading scorer Teo Mestbreban to eight points.

Truckee’s defensive game was on throughout the entire four quarters, yet a slow offensive effort in the third quarter left them too far behind by the last eight minutes to contend for a win.

Saturday’s game against Spring Creek was the climax of the Wolverines’ season thus far, as both teams battled it out until the last few seconds. In their first encounter with the Spartans, the Wolverines lost by 39 points and had no chance of winning.

Last weekend’s matchup revealed sound judgement and skills on behalf of Truckee, in a game that was lost at the free-throw line.

“Our offense was great, our defense was solid, but we were 12-21 from the line and that made all the difference,” Gray said.

In an up-tempo game, the Wolverines fought for every point and boxed out the Spartans leading scorers, keeping the scoring to a minimum.

Dave Larson and Jarrad Gifford matched each other with 14 points each for Truckee, although Larson fouled out early in the fourth quarter, thus crippling the TNT offense. The Wolverines lost by a mere three points, 43-40, a difference that could have been made up at the line several times.

“When you’re on your own court, there is no reason that free-throw percentages should be that bad. The key word is ‘free,’ and we did not take advantage of that,” Gray explained.

Saturday marks the Wolverines’ last game of league play at home against North Tahoe before the league tournament begins on Feb. 15.

Coach Mike Merriman’s girls’ varsity basketball team fell to a strong Lowry team on Friday, Feb. 2.

As if an invisible shield were covering the rim, the Wolverines were unable to put the ball in the basket, and only one TTHS player reached double digits in the scoring column. Truckee also shot less than .500 from the line for the day, resulting in a meager 28 points for four quarters of play.

Every Lowry player scored except for one, bringing the final tally to 51 points for the Buckaroos. Leading the scoring for Truckee was Heather Shove with 11 points, Lauren Gordon with seven and Emily DeCarlo with three. The Wolverines’ last bout with the Buckaroos back at the beginning of January resulted in a 50-34 loss – a game not very different from Friday’s play.

In their first match, however, the Wolverines appeared more disjointed and less confident on the court than their recent displays have indicated. The team’s improvement and skill is present, yet the ladies still find themselves unable to keep possession of the ball and pull out the win.

The Wolverines moved on to play Spring Creek on Saturday at home in an intensely physical battle on the court. The Spartans roughed the TNT players throughout the duration of the game, warranting multiple fouls that were never called.

The first quarter was slow and low-scoring, as Truckee commited multiple turnovers to lose basket opportunities. Despite this problem, which has troubled Merriman’s team since the beginning of the season, the Wolverines were consistent in their shooting and hit most of the shots they attempted.

At the half, Truckee was down by just one point, 16-15, and came out for the third quarter rallied and ready. Keely Carollo infused TNT with some energy with a breakaway and basket that set off the dense Spartan defense momentarily.

Foul trouble and frustration over the physicality of the Spartan blockers set the Wolverines back, falling to a six-point deficit at the close of the third quarter.

Strong shooting by Emily DeCarlo with six points for the game and Heather Shove with nine brought the Wolverines within two points of the Spartans with two minutes to play.

Shove mirrored Carollo’s earlier breakaway with 25 seconds left in the game, and was sent to the line twice before it was all over. Making two out of four shots, Shove upped her team’s score but came up just short of parity with the Spartans.

Merriman and his team lost 33-29, a mere four points that could have been picked up at the free throw line, as the Wolverines were 5 for 14. With low scoring and thick defensive coverage, basket opportunities from the line are the best method of securing a lead.

Shooting over .500 in free-throws, the Spartans accomplished this task in the Wolverines’ own gym. Not only was this game was a great improvement in play for Truckee compared to their previous 62-33 loss to the Spartans, it also serves as a reminder that poor season records do not necessarily negate a team’s chances for post season success.

The talent is most assuredly present on Merriman’s bench, but the Wolverines will have to take charge of the game and play up to their ability to grasp the elusive win they have been looking for all season.

Saturday’s last home game against North Tahoe will be the ladies’ last chance to rally before league tournament play begins.


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