SPRING CREEK – With a 5-2 record in league play, the Spring Creek girls basketball team faces a pivotal contest to close the first half of its Division 3A North slate.
The Lady Spartans will play on the road at 6 p.m. Friday in Winnemucca, facing the Lady Buckaroos of Lowry – who also enter the ballgame with a 5-2 record.
Lowry righted a two-game losing streak in league play – a five-game slide overall – with a 50-45 victory at home Tuesday over Elko, but the Spring Creek girls have not lost a contest in league play since dropping their first two games of the league schedule to Fallon (6-0) and Fernley (5-1).
Spring Creek has won its last five 3A North contests and six games overall.
The Lady Spartans have played a few tiebreaker ballgames in their last three games, breaking a 2-2 tie with a 52-37 victory over Elko in Spring Creek, following a with a 69-46 win against Truckee that snapped another deadlock in the loss column.
Spring Creek needs another tiebreaker victory Friday if the Lady Spartans want to keep alive their hopes for a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the regional tournament.
The Lady Buckaroos returned their two best players from last season.
Senior Alyssa Kuskie leads the Lady Bucks in scoring – averaging 14 points per game – and junior Sydney Connors scores near double figures at 9.8 points per contest.
One of Lowry’s biggest struggles comes from the fact that its third through sixth-leading scorers from last season graduated in June, taking with them 19 points per game of offense.
Not only do the Lady Bucks miss the scoring, they also miss the defensive contributions, experience and overall leadership of a departed group that took the reins from or were a part of a program that has qualified for the state tournament the past four seasons – which included a run of three-consecutive regional titles and a state championship.
Lowry qualified for the 3A state tournament last season as the No. 2 seed from the North.
The Lady Bucks have not forced as many turnovers this season, averaging two less steals per game – although, Lowry came up with 29 takeaways Tuesday against Elko.
Lowry forced double-digit turnovers in the first and fourth periods, possibly a combination of improved defense and playing an Elko team that does not have true guards and has been prone to giveaways throughout the season.
Despite not having a lot of length, the Lady Bucks rebound the ball well – averaging 36 boards per game – led by senior Kyllie Sappington’s 7.7 rebounds per game.
Spring Creek’s improvement can be attributed to improved play in the backcourt and an emergence of a talented freshman and a junior in the post.
Freshman Kylee Dimick leads the Lady Spartans with nine points and nearly seven rebounds per contest, while junior Alayna Grosz gives her a cohort in the post with 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Kaitlyn McLeod scores 7.4 points per game, leading Spring Creek with three steals and 2.6 assists per game.
The progression of junior guard Jasmine Yadeskie has proven huge for the Lady Spartans, as she now has the ability to score, facilitate, play defense and rebound.
Despite her lack of rebounder-type height or a big frame, she yanks down 6.4 rebounds per game.
She scores 7.3 points per game and comes away with two steals per game, averaging nearly two assists.
Junior Caitlyn Dimick gives the Lady Spartans a viable utility player, possessing the combination of frame and skills to play in the post or step outside and hurt opponents from the wing.
She averages seven points and 4.6 rebounds.
Spring Creek also has younger players on the roster who have contributed at various times, the Lady Spartans doing damage with balance and numbers.
Five players score seven points or more, nine players in total averaging three points or more.
“Lowry does not have as much size as they usually do. They went into a 2-3 zone against Fernley, but they usually play a man defense,” said Spring Creek coach Holly Miller. “They get right in your face and apply lots of pressure. When their man defense is working, it’s very tough and they stick with it.”
Lowry High School is a tough venue to play at – teams having to overcome a loyal, ruckus fan base, arc-shaped backboards, tight rims and the proud tradition of winning basketball.
The Lady Spartans will undergo a major test in a critical contest against the Lady Buckaroos at 6 p.m. Friday at Lowry High School in Winnemucca.