Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
With experience, depth and two outstanding guards to lead the way, the Fernley High School boys basketball team is heading south this week to challenge itself to open the season.
The Vaqueros open the season this week in the Lake Mead Holiday Classic, starting the tournament at 6:30 p.m. tonight against defending 2A state champion The Meadows. They will face Boulder City Friday at 11 a.m., then will face bracketed play based on the results of the first two rounds.
The Vaqueros return eight players from last year’s team, which went 14-11 overall and 9-7 in the Northern Division I-A, which is now the Northern 3A.
Junior Zach Burns is the leading returnee, after averaging 16.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game last season as a first team All-State selection. Senior point guard Drake Howe averaged 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists, and he and Burns complement each other well at the guard positions, both able to handle the ball as well as play without it.
The Vaqueros also return seniors Ethan Hunter (5.6 points per game), Justin Turner (4.2), Ren Arroyo (5.7) and junior Russ Ortiz (4.6). Seniors Joe Ellis and Sam Ramirez also return.
“We put in a lot of work this summer,” coach Derek Miller said. “We got in 16 or 17 games as a group, won a tournament in Rocklin, and they’re a tight knit group, a lot of fun.”
Miller said the Vaqueros have a lot of players who can shoot and push the ball on offense, and they’re looking to play pressure defense.
“We’re not the biggest team I’ve had,” Miller said. “I think we can be a little deeper than in the past.”
Miller said Elko remains the team to beat in the Northern 3A, South Tahoe and Lowry will be strong, but he said the Vaqueros anticipate being among the top.
Because of that, he’s stepping up the competition in nonleague play, facing a tough schedule in the Lake Mead Tournament, and also playing in the Rail City Classic during the Christmas break.