SPRING CREEK – The Spring Creek Spartans ended the Division 3A North regular season on an eight-game winning streak – adding two more victories in the regional tournament.
During the stretch, the Spartans ended Elko’s 71-game home winning streak and added victories over No. 6 Dayton and No. 2 Fallon in the regional tourney before falling to Elko in the regional championship by a final score of 55-44.
Spring Creek is the No. 2 seed from the North for the 3A state tournament, and their reward is facing South No. 1 and defending state champion Desert Pines in the semifinal round at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Reno High School.
Despite packing the label as the 2017 state champs, the Jaguars will enter the 2018 state tourney with an overhauled roster – graduating essentially its entire team from last season – sending off star point guard Capri Uzan, Trevon Abdullah, Jordan Simon and Marckell Grayson.
The Jags’ starting five is gone, but Desert Pines has reloaded – winning another regional championship Saturday over South No. 2 Cheyenne by a final score of 66-52.
Desert Pines does not have one or two players who pack the team with a bunch of points, but the Jags get contributions from everywhere.
The Jaguars are led in scoring by a freshman, Dayshawn Wiley, who pours in 12 points per game from the wing.
He tops the team with 1.1 blocks per game, adding 2.1 steals.
The only other double-digit scorer comes in the form of 6-foot-7 sophomore Darnell Washington, who the Spartans saw during the 3A state semifinal for football – racing to the house on an onside kick recovery with seven seconds remaining.
Washington scores 10.6 points per game and leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per contest.
Senior Darius Mitchell scores 8.9 points and grabs 6.3 rebounds, followed by 8.6 points and 4.1 boards senior Donovan Word – the duo of Mitchell and Word topping the roster with 2.6 and 2.2 assists, respectively.
Word also paces the defense with 2.5 takeaways per game.
Seven players score 5.4 points per game or more for the Jaguars – senior Malachi McLaurin adding 7.3 points.
Another face the Spartans will recognize is 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior Lorenzo Brown.
Brown scores 6.8 points and yanks down five rebounds per game, but he hangs his hat – or helmet – on the football field.
He was the 3A state Lineman of the Year for football – making 81 solo tackles, sacking quarterbacks eight times and forcing a fumble.
Junior Hasani Pullens scores 5.4 points for Desert Pines.
“They’re athletic. I just want our guys to come out and compete, do the little things that allowed us to go on our run in the second half of the season and play 32 minutes of good basketball,” said Spring Creek coach Scott Carsrud. “They have a lot of new players, but they’re very talented.”
Carsrud said in order for the Spartans to have success, they have to be able to take care of the ball against the Jaguars’ 2-2-1 press.
“We want to control the tempo and keep the game slower if we can. I want us to execute our offensive sets,” Carsrud said.
In order to keep Desert Pines off balance, Carsrud said Spring Creek will “mix it up between man and zone” on defense and “give them some different looks.”
Despite entering as the defending champs, this is not last year’s Desert Pines’ machine of groomed and experienced talent in numerous and consecutive state tournaments.
“They don’t travel outside of Vegas a whole lot, they have a lot of new players and I hope traveling to Reno and being the first state tournament for most of their players are things that can be advantages for us,” Carsrud said. “I wish we could play the game outside in the cold, but it is going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited for the tournament.”
The Spartans and Jaguars will tip off at 4:45 p.m. Friday at Reno High School in the first 3A state semifinal, the winner advancing to the 3A state championship at 4:30 p.m. Saturday to take on the Cheyenne-Elko winner.