Small school plays big basketball |

Small school plays big basketball

by Donnie Nelson, Sports Editor

Don’t let the “Class A” label fool you. There’s exciting basketball being played at Coleville High School.

And, more importantly, everybody there appears to be having a lot of fun. All four teams – the junior varsity boys and girls, and varsity boys and girls – lost to Smith Valley on Wednesday, but the home crowd was nothing less than enthusiastic and the home teams gave no less than 100 percent every minute of every game.

Class A games are not quite like those at the Class 4A level. But, single A classification don’t pretend to be large-school programs nor do they want to be. The style of play is a bit different, mainly because Class A teams don’t have as many quality players. Still, the kids are just as proud and have just as much desire to win.

What’s so special about Class A programs is the intimacy the community shares with its teams. Coleville’s gymnasium was packed with intense fans Wednesday. A handful of people even had to stand against the walls. The gym was also decorated with more than a dozen homemade signs, adding to the fun atmosphere.

Coleville, which has about 90 high school students, has quite a few kids doing multiple tasks for the athletic department on a given night. Wednesday, five members of the girls varsity basketball team changed into their cheerleading uniforms immediately following their game and broke into a practice for their halftime show during the varsity boys game. Some of them are also on the student council.

Last year, all 12 members of the girls varsity team made the school’s honor roll. That percentage could very well be the same this year.

Varsity girls come up short

The Wolves started quickly but struggled badly in the middle quarters in a 43-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

Coleville jumped out to a 5-0 lead and didn’t allow Smith Valley to score for the opening 4:38.

Sophomore guard Jennifer Masters went coast-to-coast and made a layup for the first basket of the game. Senior guard Darrah Rich made a steal and layup to give the Wolves a 4-0 lead 3:30 into the game. Senior forward Jamie Walton then made 1-of-2 free throws after being fouled while trying to put back an offensive rebound.

After Andrea Burt made a jumper from the top to give the Bulldogs their first points of the game with 3:22 left in the first quarter, senior guard Heather Timpone made a layup in transition off a nice outlet pass from senior guard Kelly Ferguson to give the Wolves their five-point cushion back.

Smith Valley warmed up and eventually tied the game at 7-all. But, Walton made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:03 left and junior forward Brianna Bryant scored off a nice post up move inside with :05 left as the Wolves regained a 10-7 lead.

The first quarter was vintage Coleville-style basketball. The Wolves played up tempo and forced Smith Valley into 13 turnovers with their tenacious defense. It was helter-skelter alright, just the way coach Will Sandy likes it.

“The first quarter was pretty good. We played about as well as we could,” Sandy said. “The tempo was in our favor.”

The Wolves made just 1-of-9 shots from the field in the second quarter and committed 10 turnovers as Smith Valley rallied to take a 19-15 advantage into the intermission.

“It’s too bad we have halftime,” Sandy said jokingly. “It gave Smith Valley, a very good team, time to regroup. We need to change the tempo when we have the ball.

“We have to play an up-tempo game defensively, but we have to play under control when we have the ball. Right now, we don’t have enough experience to know how to do that.”

The Wolves weren’t much better in the third quarter, making just 3-of-11 attempts from the field and committing nine turnovers. Smith Valley made 7-of-16 attempts from the field and 5-of-7 attempts from the foul line in the quarter and extended their lead to 39-21. The Bulldogs scored on their first three possessions of the quarter and squashed any momentum the Wolves may still have had at halftime.

To the Wolves’ credit, they never gave up. Coleville scored the last 10 points of the game, against Smith Valley’s starters, and showed signs of brilliance.

To make things even tougher, the Coleville players had finals earlier that day and more scheduled for Thursday. It’s safe to say their minds may have been in more places than just the gym.

Coleville is in a battle with McDermitt, a team it beat just last week, for the fourth and final playoff spot in Division I (Northern League). Virginia City, Owyhee and Smith Valley are clearly the top three teams in the league.

“We’re still in the hunt,” Sandy said of the playoff situation. “We need to upset (one of the top three) once or at least win the games we’re supposed to. We pretty much control our own destiny.”

Varsity boys still learning

The 100-39 score, in favor of Smith Valley, doesn’t tell the story. The Wolves, under first-year coach Gerry Gall, are still having fun and giving an all-out effort for 32 minutes a game.

Smith Valley, which like it’s girls team had a noticeable height advantage inside, had to work for everything it got. During one four-minute stretch in the third quarter with Smith Valley leading by as many as 40, the Wolves came up with four blocked shots (two by junior center Andy Ringnes and two by junior forward Joey Lovett), two nifty baskets inside by senior forward Kevin Lazar and two three-pointers (one by junior guard Derrick Reiser and one by junior guard Ronnie Simpson).

It was the kind of stretch which proved the Coleville boys program is heading in the right direction.

Just about everybody on the team plays a role. Junior guard Jim Lewallen is active and creative on both ends of the floor, sophomore center Ryan Hysell was disruptive on the boards and a host of others were effective in the half-court game.

“I want them all to play and let everybody have a good time,” Gall said. “We don’t have any big goals or dreams, but I do have some seniors (and) I want to have them remember this.

“I also have some up and comers (and) I want to give them some experience. I get bothered because there are times where we go into a game I feel the kids can win and I can’t substitute (as often) as I would like.”

This Coleville team, and the program in general for that matter, has a long way to go to be competitive for a playoff spot. However, if its victory two weeks ago at Gabbs – its first in two years – and the players’ attitudes in the lockerroom following the Smith Valley game are any indications, the Wolves are loving every minute of this season.

“They all know I care deeply for them and want them all to play,” Gall said.

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