Truckee boys eliminated from state playoffs |

Truckee boys eliminated from state playoffs

Just before Thursday’s game against the Virgin Valley Bulldogs, Carson Specht stood with a slight bounce, peering out onto the Wooster gymnasium floor. “This is what it’s all about,” he said, reciting a sentiment that seemed robotic and generic, like a thing athletes are supposed to say before big games.

But there was something genuine about it. All of Truckee’s players gazed at the floor with an unfamiliar focus, and when it was time, had a determined pace running into the arena. The pregame huddle was louder than usual and the players were bumping chests and yelling at each other to get fired up.

The fire ignited and passion continued throughout the contest, which made the Wolverines’ 64-61 loss to the Bulldogs in the first round of the NIAA/US Bank State Championship playoffs that much more devastating.

Aside from the occasional crash of a locker, the locker room was silent after the game. The season ended and both coaches, Mike Gray and Kenneth Green, seemed hard-pressed for something to say to the players who were visibly crushed. Gray, after an uncomfortable pause, consoled the team as well as he could, telling the players to keep their heads up, that, though the score didn’t show it, they were better than the Bulldogs. Gray finished his speech, reminding the players that they had to meet on Monday for individual photos and left the room.

Green, who until his turn stood stoically in the corner, apologized for a technical foul call late in the game and then iterated Gray’s point: “Keep your head up, guys.”

Truckee played well.

All the players contributed with only two people on the Wolverines’ roster not getting game time. Mark Logan, Truckee’s marquee player and go-to guy throughout the season, turned his ankle at the end of practice the day before the game. He underwent extensive therapy, but was by no means 100 percent. He was sporting an air-cast for the contest and was held to only 11 points, his lowest total of the season.

“He didn’t play like he had a twisted ankle,” Gray said, “but he was not in his game.”

Truckee’s Mark Theil finished as the game’s leading scorer with 20 points. Theil scored six points in every quarter except the third when Peter Kennelly took control of the game. Kennelly, who finished with 18 points, had 12 third quarter points. David Larson, Andy Bergstrom and Carson Specht also contributed points for the Wolverines

“I was satisfied with [the Wolverines’] play,” Gray said. “I know they played hard. We just didn’t make the play. When we needed that one rebound, we didn’t get the rebound. When we needed a stop, we didn’t get the stop.”

Logan scored the first goal of the game and gave the Wolverines their only lead, 2-0. Virgin Valley answered with a Walter Dalton three-pointer, his first of four on the evening and two in the quarter. Four first quarter triples helped the Bulldogs to mount a 20-12 lead at the end of the period.

The Bulldogs extended the lead to 12, 24-12, in the opening minutes of the second quarter before the Wolverines appeared to find their groove. Bergstrom landed a triple, Theil, off a couple of baseline assists from Logan, scored a pair of goals and Logan contributed a deuce to a 9-1 run, cutting the lead to 25-21. The Bulldogs stretched the lead to nine again before Logan and Theil paired for a six point run at the end of the quarter. Truckee trailed 30-27 at the half.

Kennelly scored the opening goal of the second half to bring the Wolverines to within one point. After the Wolverines and Bulldogs swapped goals, Virgin Valley’s Shane Hughes landed his third triple of the night. Kennelly and Larson exploded. Kennelly, in the closing five minutes of the quarter drew four fouls, one for each time he drove the lane. He made good on two three point plays by going six for six from the freethrow line. Larson, with four personal fouls against him, was playing a menacing defense, heaving his body for loose balls, getting a couple of steals and scoring four points in the quarter. Larson received his fifth foul and then a technical with 1:24 remaining in the period, ending his stint in the game. Truckee finished the period trailing by one point, 48-47.

“Peter really wanted to win,” Gray said. “The whole team wanted to win. You could really see it.”

The Wolverines maintained their threat until the closing seconds, but were held scoreless for nearly all of the final two minutes and 35 seconds of the game. In the meantime, the Bulldogs received a host of free throws, two of which came on a technical foul call on Truckee’s coach Green. The Bulldogs converted five of 13 freethrows in the minute and a half span. Truckee’s last shot of the season came from Specht who, with less than a second remaining in the fourth quarter, drained a goal from about four feet outside the three-point parabola – a shot that, seconds before, would’ve given the Wolverines a chance at tying the game. The possession before, with about 20 seconds remaining, the Wolverines had a series of three shots, all bouncing around the rim, but not falling.

“I thought we had a great season,” Gray said. “I’m proud of each and everyone of the kids. Coaching, this has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. By far, this has been my most enjoyable season.”

Virgin Valley finished the game with four players in double digits. Dalton had 16 points, John Tobler scored 15, Shane Hughes, with three triples, finished with 13, and Kasey Winters knocked down 11 points in the game.

The Bulldogs were defeated by the Bishop-Manogue Miners in the semifinals, 76-52. The Miners went on to win the state championship by defeating the Moapa Valley Pirates, 64-45.

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