Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
As they’ve steamrolled through the Northern 3A, going 6-0 in crossover games against the West and 7-0 so far in the East, the Fernley High School boys basketball team finds itself one win away from clinching the top seed for the Northern 3A Region tournament.
The Vaqueros hold a two-game lead over Elko in the East, and after beating the Indians 60-32 to complete the season sweep, own the tiebreaker for first place if they happen to lose two of their final three games to fall into a tie. The can avoid that scenario completely with a win tonight at Fallon or Saturday at Lowry.
With 19 total points in the standings, the Vaqueros need only one more win to get to 20, which is also the maximum amount Elko could finish with it if wins both of its crossover games this weekend and last two league games next week. Both teams have already accumulated more points than any West team could possibly finish with, ensuring that the East winner will be the region’s No. 1 seed. The West winner will be the No. 2 seed, so winning the league means the difference between being the No. 1 and No. 3 seed for the tournament.
Fernley put itself in this position with two wins last week, including demonstrating emphatically that their win in Elko last month was no fluke.
Last Friday, they beat Spring Creek 79-63. While coach Cade Knutson found a few flaws in his squad’s game defensively, the offense more than made up for it.
“We gave up 31 first half points which was a result of poor help defense and allowing blow bys in our full court pressure,” Knutson said.
Spring Creek’s sophomore Darren Bylund gave the Vaqueros all sorts of trouble with 19 points, and Maddox Moye, who averages six points per game, had 14, after scoring 12 against the Vaqueros the first time the teams played.
The Vaqueros had plenty of answers, though. Despite giving up those 31 first half points, they led by 11. The Vaqueros also had by far their best free throw shooting night, going 16-18 from the stripe.
“I thought our transition offense was really good,” Knutson said. “We moved the ball and made extra passes leading to 42 first half points.”
Jett Caudle led the Vaqueros with 24 points, Anthony Winters followed with 17, and Johnnie Williams chipped in with 14.
Saturday, Knutson had no complaint at all about their defense, in the 60-32 win over Elko.
“We talk a lot about holding opponents to single digit quarters,” he said. “We talked to our guys about trying to hold Elko to at least one single digit quarter. We ended the game holding them to single digits in all four quarters.”
The Vaqueros were as consistent offensively, scoring 15, 16, 15 and 14 themselves.
“By far our best 32 minutes of basketball all season long,” Knutson said. “We told our guys rebounding was going to be the key this weekend as we were outsized in both games and I thought our guys made a conscious effort to block out on most possessions. I thought that our ball movement was incredible yet again.”
Winters, who Knutson said played his best two games of basketball this season against Spring Creek on Friday and Saturday versus Elko, finished with 14 points.