Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
They may be only three games into the Northern 3A East portion of their schedule, but already the Fernley Vaqueros boys basketball team has put itself into position atop the league, with a chance to have a lot of fun over the next four weeks.
The Vaqueros opened league play last weekend with road wins at Spring Creek and Elko, along the way beating last year’s state champion and this year’s preseason favorite in Elko. Then, they followed it up Wednesday night by routing Fallon , which came into the game with the league’s second best record.
That puts the Vaqueros on top of the East League with a 3-0 record, with Lowry coming to town for a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday.
In Spring Creek, Jake Cumming led the way with 14 points, while Jett Caudle added 12 and Johnnie Williams scored 10. In a 58-49 win.
That was the appetizer. For the main course, the Vaqueros pulled off a 66-63 win over Elko, which had beaten them in the region championship game last year on the way to a state title.
“It speaks to the program that Chris Klekas has built, to lose eight guys and all five starters off a state championship team and to still have at the beginning of the year the team that everybody thought was the team to beat, and they still are one of those teams,” Fernley coach Cade Knutson said.
The Vaqueros led 35—26 at the half, then started the third quarter with a 3-pointer by Bryce Stephens for a 38-26 advantage. Elko then went on a big run, outscoring Fernley 22-6 the rest of the third quarter and eventually pulling ahead by as many as eight points at 57-49 in the fourth quarter.
With the Vaqueros trailing 63-62, Jett Caudle drew a blocking foul o a drive with 11 seconds left and hit both free throws for a 64-63 lead, then after Elko’s last second shot missed, Caudle grabbed the reboun and was fouled, hitting both free throws for the final 66-63 margin.
“We’re pretty good at going on runs, and other teams go on them too, and you have to respond, and I was pretty proud of the way we kept playing, kept playing with confidence and kept attacking,” Knutson said. “And Jett Caudle in the fourth quarter was incredible outside of a handful of possessions, and made two of the biggest free throws in recent program history to seal that win.”
Caudle scored 11 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, including the winning and icing free throws. Stephens added 22 for the Vaqueros.
Wednesday against Fallon, it was Johnnie Williams turn to take over a game. With the Vaqueros leading 36-26 at the half, Williams scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter as the Vaqueros blew the game open, leading by as much as 21 on three occasions before cruising to the 72-55 win in front of a full house and a raucous atmosphere.
“We talk a lot about defending home court,” Knutson said. “We want this to be a place that is difficult for teams to come in and win. We’re trying to create an atmosphere here that it’s a place that people feel like it’s difficult to come and play. So along with that, we tell the kids that when the stands are full, that you have an obligation to come in and play with incredible energy and get after it defensively and rebound. I thought that we did exactly that.”
The Vaqueros will look to keep rolling against Lowry, which comes in with a 5-7 overall record and 1-1 in the Northern 3A East.
“We have lofty goals,” Knutson said. “In order to get where we want to go, we have to keep improving and keep shoring things up and be a little bit more fundamentally sound at times in games.”