ELKO – For being seven hours apart and the schools varying greatly in size, the Elko Indians and the Cheyenne Desert Shields have recent with history with one another.
The two teams will create more familiarity on Friday during the Division 3A state semifinal at 8:15 p.m. at Reno High School – Elko entering the game with a No. 1 seed from the North after winning its seventh-consecutive regional championship, Cheyenne once again earning the No. 2 seed from the South.
The Indians beat Cheyenne by a wide margin on Jan. 14, 2017, during the Battle Born Classic by a final score of 46-26 at Durango High School in Las Vegas, the 20-point victory coming against the then-No. 1 Desert Shields.
Elko’s second matchup with the Desert Shields in Las Vegas did not produce the same result, the Indians falling in a 53-47 ballgame on Feb. 24, 2017, during the 3A state semifinal.
Cheyenne went on the state final, taking a 69-46 beating from Desert Pines – the defending state champion Jaguars entering the 2018 state tournament with a No. 1 seed and playing Spring Creek at 4:40 p.m. Friday at Reno High School.
The Desert Shields graduated post Dewayne Alexander, William Federson and D’Andre Houston, but Cheyenne returned virtually its entire team.
Cheyenne brought back senior Kavon Williams, who led the Desert Shields in scoring with 19 points in last year’s semifinal win over the Indians.
Also back is speedy sophomore guard KeShawn Hall, who brings lightning-quick skills on the offensive end and a full-court, grind-opponents-down pressure on defense.
In the 2017 state semi, Hall picked up the ball handler the length of the floor for practically the entire game, which not only creates havoc and turnovers – it also takes away legs – limiting offensive production, especially on jump shots and free throws.
When people get tired, they make mistakes.
Elko coach Chris Klekas knows the Indians will have to take care of the basketball, not only off the dribble and with passes, but also on the glass.
“We have to rebound the basketball. Last year, we gave up way too many offensive rebounds,” Klekas said. “They are very long and athletic, so it’s tough. They are a better team than they were last season.”
The Desert Shields have eight players who stand 6-feet or taller.
In addition to rebounding and limiting Cheyenne’s size and athletes, Elko will have to get off to a better start.
In the 2017 semifinal, the Indians went more than half of the first quarter without a point, finally gaining a put-back by graduated leaper Kyrin Allen – the Desert Shields starting the game with a 10-2 run.
“We have to come out focused, ready to play and aggressive,” Klekas said. “We have to start the game better than we did last year to give ourselves a good chance. We need to knock down shots and play our best basketball. To win at state, we are going to have to play a full 32 minutes of basketball.”
The Indians will play in the final game of the 3A state semifinal round, looking to avenge a 2017 semifinal loss to Cheyenne at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Reno High School.
The winner will advance to the 3A state championship, taking place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.