Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
As he watched the two teams walk off the floor at halftime of their Northern 3A League semifinal game last Friday night, KELK radio announcer Sam Brown remarked about the smiles on the faces of the Fernley coaches as they went to the locker room with a five-point lead.
But just eight minutes of basketball later, it was Elko that was all smiles.
Elko used a 17-0 run in the midst of outscoring Fernley 23-7 in the fourth quarter, on their way to a 62-46 win that ended Fernley’s hopes of returning to the 3A State Tournament for a second straight year.
“We felt that it was very important to get off to a fast start versus Elko and we did,” Fernley coach Derek Miller said. “I was very pleased with how we played in the first half and having the lead at half.”
Fernley got off to a hot start.
Zach Burns answered a 3-pointer by Elko’s Ryan Wickersham, then Russ Ortiz scored inside and Rei Robinett scored seven quick points, before Burns capped the quarter with a bucket that gave Fernley a 14-8 lead going to the second,
Elko came out in the second quarter with vigor, with 10 points to only a 3-pointer by Dario Ceresola, to take an 18-17 lead.
But Fernley had the answer, with a 3-pointer by Burns, and a 4-point play by Robinett, when he was fouled making a 3-pointer and made the free throw, to put Fernley back up 24-18.
A reverse layup by Ceresola just before half gave Fernley a 26-21 halftime lead.
“We were expecting them to go on a run in the third quarter and we were unable to answer it,” Miller said. “The boys played hard and I was happy with their efforts.”
Fernley scored the first four points of the third quarter, and Robinett answered with a basket, as Fernley led 28-25.
But Elko scored the next 17 points to go ahead 42-28. Burns hit a 3-pointer and Kyle Heimbruch answered a basket by Alex Klekas, and the Vaqueros went to the fourth quarter still within striking distance, at 44-33.
Unlike the night before, when they’d rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter and trailed by 9 going to the fourth against South Tahoe, the Vaqueros couldn’t put together an extended run against Elko.
The Indians got their lead to 16 on a 3-pointer by Angelo Antiniou.
Ceresola hit a 3-pointer and made two free throws to help the Vaqueros get as close as 53-42, but Elko spread the floor and Jeron Yopps got free for two layups as Elko pulled away.
The Vaqueros were without Drew Miller and Jay King, who were out with injuries, after playing without Burns for several games earlier in the season.
“This was a great group of boys who fought through a lot of adversity and just came up short in the semifinals,” Miller said.