ELKO – For seven straight seasons, one boys basketball team has earned a No. 1 seed for the North regional tournament – the Elko Indians.
After Elko saw its 71-game home winning streak snapped Tuesday by the Spring Creek Spartans, the Indians bounced back Saturday against Lowry – looking a lot more like the six-time defending regional champions.
The Bucks jumped out to an 8-4 lead early, gaining three points each from juniors Brendan Domire and Kyle Sappington – Elko’s first four points coming on two each by freshman Sean Klekas and senior Stockton Salyer.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Elko began its run that blew the Buckaroos away.
Elko closed the first period on a 19-0 streak – which extended to a 25-0 stretch in the second quarter – tearing open the ballgame at 29-8.
Junior Alex Klekas scored eight points in the first, capping the frame with a coast-to-coast take down the middle after a long rebound.
Senior center Jeron Yopps tallied six points in the first, junior Ronin Rowley hit a three from the top of the arc – also sparking the Indians’ lock-down defensive effort – and Sean Klekas drained another pull-up jumper.
After the first, Elko led 23-8.
The run continued in the second period, senior Kevin Espinoza dropping a jump hook.
Yopps finished against a foul on a great look by Salyer, and senior Ryan Wickersham capped the 25-0 explosion with a pull-up jumper on the right baseline.
The Buckaroos went more than a full quarter without scoring a point, the drought stopped with four minutes remaining in the half by a free throw from senior Darian Solis.
Sophomore Kobe Stocker followed with his second field goal on a put-back.
Elko senior Angelo Antoniou made a pair of free throws, followed by a bucket in the middle by Lowry junior Scottie Smith.
Espinoza scored on a rocket pass from Antoniou, but Domire made two free throws after a being fouled on a three.
Junior Cooper Jones took a charge after an Elko turnover, and Alex Klekas scored four points – Espinoza adding another two from the line.
At the break, the Indians led big at 39-15.
Rowley opened the third quarter with a backdoor finish on a pass from Yopps, and Alex Klekas got his man in the air and completed the And-1 from the line.
Lowry senior Dominick Solis scored his first points from a steal for the Bucks, but Alex Klekas and Rowley scored two each for the Indians.
The teams traded buckets – Sappington scoring on a weak-side follow and Yopps tipping in a rebound.
Smith scored easily for Lowry on a rare defensive breakdown by Elko, but Antoniou cashed a triple from the left corner.
Following a Solis free throw, the game turned into a running clock with 2:10 remaining – Alex Klekas ripping consecutive threes.
The period closed with two free throws by Espinoza and two from Solis on the other end.
The Indians opened a 61-24 advantage entering the final frame.
In the fourth, Sappington connected on two freebies but Espinoza made an And-1 after a great catch on the break.
Solis made a put-back for the Bucks, Sean Klekas made a free throw for the Indians and Antoniou cashed a pair at the stripe.
With 2:05 on the clock, the roof of Centennial Gymnasium nearly came off when senior Jeremiah Harris scored from the left side.
Antoniou made a strong follow for a 70-28 lead, the final two points of the game coming by Lowry junior Evan Jeppsen at the line.
Elko cruised to a 70-30 victory, beating the Bucks by 40 points – allowing Lowry just 15 points in each half.
Alex Klekas scored a game-high 23 points – hitting two 3s and scoring 11 points in the third quarter – sitting the bench in the fourth.
Espinoza and Yopps finished in double figures with 10 points apiece, and Antoniou neared double digits with nine points.
Rowley closed with seven points for the Indians, Sean Klekas scoring four of his five in the first quarter.
Sappington led Lowry with seven points, Solis finished with six and Domire added all five of his points in the first half.
LOWRY – 8 – 7 – 9 – 6 – 30 Total
ELKO – 23 – 16 – 22 – 9 – 70 Total
“I thought we responded well from Tuesday. We had a lot better effort and energy on the defensive end,” said Elko coach Chris Klekas. “We forced turnovers and that allowed us to do some nice things.”
The Indians finished the season with a 15-1 record in league play, locking up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the 3A North regional tournament – which begins Thursday at Centennial Gymnasium.
Elko will face the No. 4 Fernley-No. 5 South Tahoe winner (8 p.m. Thursday) in the regional semifinal with a trip to state on the line at 8 p.m. Friday.
Lowry fell to 6-10 and was eliminated from postseason play due to the head-to-head tiebreaker with No. 6 Dayton, which will play No. 3 Spring Creek at 4:40 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Gymnasium.