Truckee upset in the finals | SierraSun.com
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Truckee upset in the finals

BAY KELLEY, Sierra Sun

At a tournament well worth the $10 price for a couple of adult tickets, four teams, two double overtimes, a favorite, and hours of basketball all culminated in an upset and a new division champion.

The NIAA/US Bank 3A Division I boys’ basketball tournament was held at Tahoe-Truckee high school and, after a series of very close games, the Rite of Passage Rams were crowned the 1999-2000 Division champs, upsetting the Wolverines in the tournament’s fourth and final contest.

First Round

Truckee 69 – Fernley 62

As evidenced on the first day of the playoffs, the Tahoe-Truckee Wolverines do not know how to put a team away, do not know how to dominate a game, do not know how to play four consistent quarters but, as has been the case all season, know how to win.

The Wolverines mounted a strong fourth quarter rally and defeated the Fernley Vacqueros in the first round of the divisional playoffs, 69-62, at home on Friday.

The Truckee crowd chanted, mocked and showed full-throat support while the Wolverines went on a 20-4 scoring run. The run brought them from a seven-point deficit at the end of the third quarter, 51-44, to an insurmountable nine-point lead with less than a minute remaining in the game.

In the first possession of the quarter, Peter Kennelly drove the lane before passing the ball to Mark Theil, who got the easy shot. Kennelly stole the ensuing in-bounds pass and scored two more points. A travel call on Fernley’s next possession sent the crowd into a frenzy and, after a score by Tyler Seldon of the Vacqueros, the Wolverines scored eleven unanswered points. Theil had four points in the rally, David Larson had two, Kennelly had two and Carson Specht landed a triple. Truckee’s offense for the remainder of the game was freethrows as the Vacqueros desperately tried to manage the clock so they could catch back up.

They couldn’t. Fernley got to within three points, 65-62, with 17 seconds remaining, but were unable to pierce Truckee’s defense for the rest of the game.

That was the fourth quarter. A whole lot of team work and passion, perhaps marked with a little desperation, made it happen for the Wolverines, whose potential shines in brief intervals.

The first three quarters … well …

“Those first three quarters we stunk up the gym” Truckee Head Coach Mike Gray said to his team after the game, “You can’t pick when you’re going to play. You have to play 110 percent all the time.”

The scoring for the Wolverines was more balanced than it has been all season. Mark Logan led the scoring with 18 points, Theil had 17 points, Kennelly finished the game with 12 points, Specht scored 10 points and Larson contributed nine points to the Wolverines’ first round victory.

Ben Chisum led the Vacquero’s scoring with 18 points.

Rite of Passage 103 – Spring Creek 97, 2OT

Kicking off the division playoffs with exuberance, Rite of Passage defeated Spring Creek, 103-97, in double overtime to advance to the divisional championship game.

Case Egan scored a goal for Spring Creek with less than a second remaining in regulation, tying the game at 67 apiece. Rite of Passage gathered an early advantage in the first overtime, scoring seven unanswered points, but the Spartans fought back and, with a clutch three pointer by Sterling Billat with two seconds left in overtime, tied the game, again.

Billat, with eight three pointers on the day, accumulated 42 points for Spring Creek before fouling out of the game with 3:05 remaining in the second overtime. The Rams took advantage of his absence and outscored the Spartans 19-10 in the remaining minutes.

Jonathan Harris led the Rams with 29 points on the day and Steveland Arthur had 22 points.

Division championship game

ROP sought redemption against the Wolverines for two close losses this season and a loss last season that eliminated them from the state playoffs.

They got it.

The Rite of Passage Rams defeated the Wolverines for the 3A Division I league championship, 70-58.

Truckee trailed at the end of every quarter, staying within six points for the first three before being blown out in the fourth. ROP outscored the Wolverines 12-3 in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter, mounting a 57-42 lead.

“My kids really wanted it,” ROP Head Coach David Smith said. “They were going to leave it all out here on the floor … everything they had. They played great … everyone played great.”

Five ROP players scored in double digits. Jonathan Harris led the Rams with 19 points, making three three pointers. 6-foot-3 center David Simmons knocked down 16 points, Forward, Steveland Arthur, tallied 12 points, Cesar Alberti scored 11 points at the point guard position and Lawrence Jones had 10 points at the shooting guard position. A player at every position scored in double digits.

“That’s just not getting after the ball,” Truckee assistant coach Kenneth “Tree” Green said, “that’s just not playing defense. As a team, you’re supposed to rally together and help each other. We didn’t do that.”

“Our problem now is our interior defense (the two Marks),” Gray said. “We stopped [the Ram’s] perimeter shooting and they started killing us at the baseline.”

Truckee, on the other hand, had difficulty hitting the floor with the ball.

The Wolverines shot an abysmal 23 percent from the floor. Lay-ups wouldn’t drop and the Truckee players were lucky to get a rebound from ROP’s Simmons or Arthur, who controlled the boards. Truckee made only six of 14 attempts from the freethrow line and landed one of 14 attempts from beyond the three point line in the first half.

“We just didn’t execute and do the things it takes to win,” Gray said. “I’ve said it time and time again, but it’s about coming mentally prepared to play. We are a good team, we just don’t show it on the floor. We need to get down and do the dirty work.”

Theil led the scoring for the Wolverines with 18 points, nine of which came, without consequence, in the fourth quarter. Larson had 14 points as did Logan – held well below his season-leading average of 23.1 points per game. Kennelly scored seven points for the Wolverines.

Consolation game

Fernley 57 – Spring Creek 51, 2OT

The first day of the playoffs, the teams were playing for pride and position. The second day, they were playing for their lives.

With only three teams advancing to the state playoffs this weekend, no one wanted to finish fourth. Someone, either Fernley or Spring Creek, was going to be left behind.

The Fernley Vacqueros demonstrated the potential to dominate Spring Creek when they held the Spartans to only two points – both freethrows – in the second quarter, mounting a 25-14 lead heading into halftime.

Spring Creek, however, with its never say die attitude, battled back and took the lead for the first time since the first quarter, 44-42, with 26.5 seconds left in the game. Tyler Seldon scored a goal for Fernley with 10 seconds remaining and another overtime was inevitable.

The teams matched each other point for point. Billat landed two free throws with 20 seconds in the extra period before Fernley’s Joe Reeder scored a deuce with a second left in the first overtime to tie the game at 50 apiece.

After scoring the first goal of the second overtime period, the Vacqueros managed to pass the ball around the perimeter and wound nearly two minutes of the four-minute period off the clock. The Spartans scored only one point in the extra quarter.

Seldon led the scoring with 18 points.

Coming up

Despite losing, the Wolverines still advance to the state playoffs as the number two seeded team. They will play the Virgin Valley Bulldogs starting today at 6:10 p.m. at Wooster High School in Reno.

Virgin Valley finished the season ranked second in the 3A league Division III with a record of 5-3, 13-12. The Bulldogs defeated the Boulder City Eagles by 20 points in the first round of the division playoffs before losing to the Moapa Valley Pirates by 10 points in the division championship game.

The Bulldogs played Fernley, Spring Creek and North Tahoe at a Fernley tournament earlier this season. Playing without their starting center, Casey Winters, Virgin Valley lost to Fernley, 69-67, defeated Spring Creek, 72-53, and lost to North Tahoe, 62-51.

The winner of the game will play the winner between Bishop-Manogue and Pahrump Valley in the semifinals at the Lawlor Events Center starting on Friday at 1:45 p.m. The championship game will be played on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center.


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