RENO – The Clark Chargers have not only had Elko’s number in the last three meetings of state tournament, they are simply too good.
Clark is too big, too strong, too fast, too athletic – scoring buckets on multiple occasions on second-chance points and playing suffocating defense – and the Chargers defeated the Indians 54-37 Friday night in the I-A state semifinal at Reno High School.
If Elko got off to a bad start in the 2014 state championship against Clark, the Indians began the 2016 state semifinal with a horrid stretch.
Sophomore James Bridges gave the Chargers a 3-0 lead with a triple from the left wing, followed by a steal and layup by senior teammate Darius Jackson. Clark freshman Antwon Jackson opened a 6-0 lead, forcing an Elko timeout with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Elko did not score until the 1:45 mark, a drought broken by junior Eric Klekas, who knocked down a three.
Darius Jackson made a filthy move along the baseline for a nifty reverse, followed by a bucket on a put back by freshman Jalen Hill, as Clark dominated the glass and took advantage of Elko turnovers.
Senior Dustin Baum buried Elko’s second field goal of the game, splashing a three to close the first period.
The Indians trailed 13-6 entering the second period.
The Chargers had a solid first period, following with an incredible one in the second.
Hill opened the frame with a wide-open three from the top of the key, and sophomore Trey Woodbury made a steal on another errant Elko pass and finished on the other end.
Antwon Jackson made a free throw, and Bridges stuck a three. Senior Keyshaun Webb made another steal along the sideline and finished strong at the rim, capping a 9-0 run to start the frame.
Baum ended a dry spell for the Indians that lasted nearly four minutes with a three, his second triple of the game.
Woodbury lost the Elko defense with a backdoor cut along the baseline and finished with ease. Webb completed an old-fashioned, three-point play to open a 20-point lead at 29-9.
The Elko offense could not find operating space, and the Chargers were on an Indian like white on rice every time an Elko player caught the ball or attempted to drive.
Baum bailed out a bad possession with a 40-foot three that banked off-glass at the buzzer of the second period.
After a free throw by Allen, Darius Jackson extended the Clark lead to 31-13 with an “And 1.”
Baum buried his fourth three of the game, but Webb knocked down a jumper – and Darius Jackson netted a deuce.
Elko sophomore Kamren Backherms made a nice weak-side rebound for a put back, but Bridges lined up another three for the Chargers.
Klekas cut the lead below 20 with a follow on the break to make the score 38-20, and Allen finished along the baseline at the 2:45 mark. The Indians cut the lead to 13 with a three by freshman Alex Klekas on an assist by Allen – finishing a 7-0 Elko run.
Darius Jackson stemmed the mini run with a basket, and Bridges grabbed another offensive board for a score.
Eric Klekas made a hard drive down the left side of the lane, finishing with his off-hand.
Clark led 42-27 at the end of the third period, and Elko was running out of time.
Allen dropped the first two points of the fourth from the line, but any serious hopes of a comeback were thwarted by a 7-0 Clark run – three from Woodbury on an “And 1,” two by freshman Ian Alexander and the final score by Woodbury on another follow.
Sophomore Jeron Yopps and Allen scored for the Indians, with a bucket by Darius Jackson in between.
Eric Klekas scored with 2:18 remaining, but Alexander followed on the other end.
Yopps scored the final bucket of the game for the Indians on a solid jump hook.
Darius Jackson notched the final point of the game from the free-throw line, and Clark rolled to the state championship game with a 54-37 victory.
Baum led the Indians with 12 points, finishing as the only Elko player in double digits. All 12 of Baum’s points came from beyond the arch, knocking down four 3s.
Eric Klekas finished with nine points, and Allen closed with seven. Yopps scored four points, all coming in the fourth period. Alex Klekas finished with three points, and Backherms rounded out the scoring for the Indians with two points.
Darius Jackson led a trio of Chargers in double digits with a game-high 13 points, joined by Bridges and Woodbury with 11 points apiece.
Clark – 13 – 16 – 13 – 12 – 54 Total
Elko – 6 – 6 – 15 – 10 – 37 Total
The Indians will go back to the drawing board and try to figure out a way to dismantle the bigger, stronger, more-athletic teams from the South.
Congratulations to Elko coach Chris Klekas and the Indians on another fantastic season, finishing as the I-A North league champions for the fifth year in a row.
The Chargers will face the Desert Pines Jaguars in the I-A state championship, looking to win their third-consecutive state title. The I-A state final will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Lawlor Events Center.