LAS VEGAS – Length and strength.
The Mojave Rattlers’ athleticism and ball pressure caused the Elko boys basketball team to commit way too many turnovers, and aside from one player – Elko could not buy a bucket from outside.
No. 1 Elko lost to No. 4 Mojave by a final score of 54-44, the third quarter serving as the difference maker – an eight-minute stretch that saw the Rattlers outscore the Indians 18-8.
Elko struggled with the athleticism of the Rattlers in the early moments of the game, committing turnovers on poor passes, Mojave jumping the passing lanes.
Mojave took a 3-0 lead on a triple by freshman Noah Sherrard, but Elko closed the gap to one on its first bucket on a hook shot by senior Jose Zataray.
The Rattlers scored an easy bucket by junior Chris Jackson, but Zataray made a weak-side follow for the Indians.
Elko turnovers hurt the offense, allowing an 8-0 run on the defensive end by a three from junior Isaiah Harper and another by Jackson – Jackson also sinking a pair of free throws.
Trailing 13-4, the Indians stopped the streak with a free throw by junior Ronin Rowley.
After being picked clean on several crossovers, Elko senior Angelo Antoniou went to a behind-the-back dribble and finished in the lane.
Rowley scored on a pump fake, the Indians closing the period on a 5-0 run.
After the first quarter, Mojave led 13-9.
Elko cut the lead to two on Zataray’s third field goal, dropping a scoop shot out of a double team.
Jackson gave Mojave a 14-11 lead with a free throw.
Antoniou was in the paint from a dish by Zataray, but Harper gave the Rattlers a 15-13 lead at the line.
Elko turned the ball over on consecutive possessions.
Senior John Harper gave Mojave a four-point lead with a hesitation move against contact, but Zataray’s fourth field goal inside pulled the Indians to within two.
Jackson swatted consecutive Elko shots and started the break to John Harper for an easy finish.
A pair of free throws by Elko junior Alex Klekas pulled the Indians to within two, and senior center Jeron Yopps scored on a floater from an offensive rebound – knotting the game at 19-19 with two minutes remaining in the half.
Isaiah Harper banked in his second triple and opened a three-point play, but a hook shot by Yopps cut the deficit to one.
At the break, the Indians trailed 22-21.
The Indians started the third poorly, Elko allowing six straight points and missing bunnies on the offensive end.
Rowley stopped the run with a free throw but Jackson scored and opened an eight-point lead at 30-22.
The Rattlers dropped a baseline jumper for a 10-point lead, and Elko turned the ball over on a travel.
Mojave’s lead grew to 11 with a free throw, Sherrard opening a 14-point cushion with his second three.
Elko’s first field goal of the third period came with 2:30 on the clock, Klekas scoring on a reverse layup.
Junior Desaun Smith scored an And-1, Elko allowing bucket in transition after a turnover.
The Indians cut the lead to 13 on their first three, coming off the hand of freshman Sean Klekas.
He then pump-faked his defender and drew a foul from distance with one second on the clock, making two of three free throws to close the frame.
Entering the fourth, Elko trailed by 11 at 40-29 – the Rattlers outscoring the Indians 18-8 in the third quarter.
Elko turned the ball over to start the fourth and allowed Sherrard to drain his third three of the contest.
Sean Klekas packed the Indians, burying consecutive triples – the second from deep.
The Rattlers scored inside, but Sean Klekas dropped a floater and cut the lead the lead to eight with four minutes remaining.
Mojave scored four straight points, but a three from the corner by none other than Sean Klekas trimmed the deficit to nine with 2:17 remaining.
Zataray jumped a passing lane and came away with a steal, and Alex Klekas got his man in the air and finished – the Indians pulling to within seven at 49-42 with a minute and a half on the clock.
The Indians came away with a steal but missed several shots after offensive boards, Zataray finally earning a trip to the charity stripe.
A pair of free throws by Zataray cut the lead to five with 46 seconds on the clock.
Elko forced to foul, sophomore Dante Ingram nailed a pair of freebies and Sherrard also made a clean trip to the line – icing the ballgame.
Another free throw by Ingram gave the Rattlers a 10-point lead.
Mojave defeated Elko by a final score of 54-44.
Sean Klekas scored a team-high 16 points for the Indians, pouring in 11 points in the fourth quarter and making all of Elko’s four 3s.
Zataray scored in double figures with 10 points, notching eight in the first half.
Alex Klekas finished with six points and Rowley, Yopps and Antoniou closed with four points apiece.
ELKO 9 12 8 15 44 Total MOJAVE 13 9 18 14 54 Total The Indians will wrap up the two-game road trip with a 2:30 p.m. tipoff Saturday against Division 4A program Centennial in the Battle Born Classic at Durango High School.