RENO – The Spring Creek boys basketball team made some noise early on Friday against the defending state champions, but Desert Pines’ athleticism and length eventually wore down the Spartans for a 60-43 victory – the Jaguars advancing back to the 3A state championship game.
Senior Donovan Word scored quickly at the tin for the Jaguars, followed by a run-out down the left side by freshman Dayshawn Wiley.
Spring Creek’s first points came on a three from the left wing by senior Levi Yaunick, but the Jags took an 8-3 lead on two free throws by Word and a slashing drive by senior Darius Mitchell.
Spring Creek senior Thomas Ledford made a free throw, and the Spartans got back in the game with a deuce by Yaunick on the baseline on a pass from senior Dakota Larson.
A triple on the left wing by senior Ryan Miner cut the deficit to one at 8-7, but Desert Pines answered immediately with a three by Wiley.
Larson drove the lane and gave the Spartans a 12-11 lead with 2:25 on the clock, the lead swinging to Desert Pines’ favor on an And-1 finish and a free throw by Mitchell in the middle.
Junior Hasani Pullens grabbed his own miss for put-back with the foul, but Yaunick pulled the Spartans to within two with a turnaround jumper.
The Jaguars grabbed an 18-14 lead at the buzzer with an offensive rebound by senior Malachi McLaurin.
McLaurin scored after a Spring Creek miss to open the second period, snagging an outlet pass down the left side for a layup ahead of the pack.
Yaunick dropped a baseline J from the left side on a great look from Larson, but Mitchell notched a deuce wide open on the weak side for Desert Pines.
A three-point play from the stripe by Word gave the Jaguars a 25-16 lead, Yaunick hitting a freebie for Spring Creek.
Larson made a rebound for the Spartans and quickly banked a shot off the glass in traffic, but Mitchell gashed the middle of Spring Creek’s defense for a runner in the lane.
Senior Jake Oliphant made the score 27-21 with a pair of free throws, but the Jags ended the half with an And-1 plus the free throw by Word on a play that he could have been issued a charging foul.
Oliphant made a free throw to start the third, followed by a three from Yaunick on the left side on a dish from Larson – cutting the deficit to five.
Senior Lorenzo Brown sank a jump hook for the Jags, Desert Pines going up 34-25 on another And-1 finish by Mitchell.
Spring Creek senior Daniel Eary made a tough rebound and went up strong through two defenders, but as soon as 6-foot-7 sophomore Darnell Washington checked back into the game – he went to work.
He scored on an inbound pass, blocked a shot on the defensive end and scored in the middle.
What shots Washington didn’t block, he altered – forcing several misfires.
Miner saved a bucket for the Spartans, racing back on a fast break by the Jaguars and stuffing a shot of his own off the bottom of the backboard.
Spring Creek forced consecutive turnovers, Miner running the break and hitting Ledford for a baseline jumper that bounced around and fell.
Washington grabbed an offensive board for a put-back to close the third.
Entering the fourth, Desert Pines led by 11 at 40-29.
The fourth began with a deuce by McLaurin for the Jaguars and a free throw by Oliphant for the Spartans.
Wiley scored five in a row for Desert Pines, grabbing a put-back on the left side and following with a three.
Spring Creek shaved a 17-point deficit to 11 with 4:30 remaining with a 6-0 run.
Yaunick buried a jumper, Oliphant scored along the baseline and Yaunick drained a runner across the paint.
Washington came out of a timeout and booked consecutive buckets for Desert Pines, the second coming off a Spring Creek turnover.
Ledford scored for the Spartans on a drive and kick from Oliphant with 2:28 remaining, Spring Creek trailing by 13 at 51-38.
Wiley smoked his third three of the game for the Jaguars and followed with a deuce, opening a 56-38 advantage with two minutes on the clock.
Miner hit the front end of a 1-and-1, and Washington punched the exclamatory stamp on the contest with 1:30 remaining with a hammer-time dunk on the right block.
Miner ended his career with two free throws before receiving a warm applause while going to the bench.
Jacob Fisher scored on the right block for the Spartans, but Laronte Dorsey grabbed an offensive board for the Jags along the baseline for a finish.
Spring Creek fell by 17 points with the final score of 60-43.
In defeat, Yaunick led all scorers with 18 points, knocking down three 3s.
Wiley led the Jaguars with 15 points, drilling three triples of his own.
Washington scored 12 points for Desert Pines, all points coming in the second half.
Mitchell, Word and McLaurin finished with nine points apiece for the Jaguars.
Miner and Oliphant each put in six points for the Spartans, Ledford closing with five.
SPRING CREEK – 14 – 7 – 8 – 14 – 43 Total
DESERT PINES – 18 – 12 – 10 – 20 – 60 Total
Desert Pines advanced to 3A state final and will look to defend its title against the Elko-Cheyenne winner, tipoff set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.