Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
An Elko team that has made the Northern 3A it’s private playground with seven consecutive trips to the State Tournament, and a Fallon team whose only two losses this season are to Elko, enter this week’s 3A Northern League Tournament as heavy favorites.
For the youthful Fernley Vaqueros, that emphasis is on heavy.
Sixth-seeded Fernley will open the league tournament at 4:40 p.m. Thursday against Lowry, which, like Elko and Fallon, enjoys a significant heft advantage over the Vaqueros, who often start two freshmen and a sophomore and who are focused on competing against the physicality of the bigger and more experienced Buckaroos.
“They really are very physical on the board and we have to meet that physicality,” coach Derek Miller said. “We meet guys and then we stop moving, and then we get shoved. That’s what we got to continue to work on.”
That physicality was on display last Friday as the Buckaroos routed the Vaqueros, 50-31.
Lowry outscored the Vaqueros 17-6 to open the game, and 12-2 to end the first half, taking a 35-17 lead to the half. That was a repeat of the way the Buckaroos jumped on the Vaqueros in the teams’ first meeting this year, and Miller said the Vaqueros have to avoid a repeat to have a chance Thursday.
“Both games we kind of dug a hole the first half, and it’s one that we’re going have to get a good start on, and we have to rebound,” he said.
Freshman Carson Kingston led the Vaqueros with 16 points, while Rei Robinett added 13.
The Vaqueros were much more competitive Saturday against Fallon, until the Greenwave closed the game with a late flurry to win 79-57.
Kingston again led the Vaqueros, with 21 points, and it was his free throw with 6:56 left in the game that drew Fernley within 56-45.
“Carson played really well,” Miller said. “It was a foul fest obviously, and we knew we were going to get calls, and he went to the hole and I was very, very pleased with how he played.”
Robinett, who finished with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer with 5:25 left to climb within 59-50, but Fallon scored 20 points over the last 4:54 to extend the margin.
“You look on there and it looks like it was a blowout and it was not even close,” Miller said. “We were within nine in the fourth and just didn’t have a couple things go our way.”
Miller said he challenged the Vaqueros to compete physically after he felt they lost their edge the previous week.
“I thought we played really well,” he said. “We still have times where you think we’re going to turn a corner and we make a mistake or something, but overall very pleased with our effort.”
While Elko and Fallon are the prohibitive favorites to advance from the league tournament, Miller said the tournament can be an important step in the development of the Vaqueros into a program that can compete with those at the top.
“Hopefully we can knock off Lowry and get ourselves a chance to play another game,” he said. “It’s all learning for us. It’s all a process.”