DAYTON — Dayton basketball coach Jason Santos didn’t pull any punches.
“Elko is the best team in Northern Nevada at any level,” Santos said. “They are sound fundamentally, they never take a bad shot, they never force up a shot and they defend hard.
“I could get mad and chew on the kids, but what’s the point. They are that much better than us.”
The visiting Indians, 19-2, proved that in their 54-20 demolition of the Austin Fletcher-less Dust Devils before a small crowd Saturday afternoon in a Division 1A contest.
Fletcher missed the contest because he was in Reno attending a meeting for walk-on football candidates at the University of Nevada. Even he wouldn’t have made a big difference.
Elko shot 56 percent from the field and turned the ball over nine times compared to 22 percent from the floor and 17 turnovers for the Dust Devils.
This one was over quickly.
Dayton turned the ball over on its first four possessions, and Elko converted on all four for a quick 9-0 lead. Nathan Klekas had five in that span and Tim Meo added two baskets. Elko would go on to score 10 more unanswered points for a 19-0 lead before Bernardo Macias scored five unanswered points in the final 72 seconds of the opening quarter.
The second quarter wasn’t much better for the Dust Devils, who continued to turn the ball over at an alarming rate, and hurrying long-range shots because of Elko’s swarming defense. Brandon Jenkins hit three 3-pointers in the final four-plus minutes of the second quarter, sparking Elko to a 35-12 halftime advantage.
Elko’s performance made coach Chris Klekas a happy man, and he hopes for even more success in the last two weeks of the season.
“Lately we’ve been playing down to the other team’s level,” coach Klekas said. “Today, we jumped on them very quickly. We executed well and made our shots. A lot of kids got a lot of minutes. We expect our second five to play as well as the starters. It did get ragged a bit (in the second half).
“I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. We have two weeks to go. I want to see us play like we did for the first four or five minutes today.”
Meanwhile, Dayton has its hands full if it wants to finish in the top four and earn a playoff spot.
Elko is 12-0, Lowry 11-1, Spring Creek 8-4 and Fallon and South Tahoe are tied for the fourth spot at 6-6 with Dayton a step behind at 5-7. The good thing is that Dayton plays both Fallon and South Tahoe along with Sparks and Fernley.
“That loss to Fernley really hurt,” Santos said. “I figure we have to sweep our last four to get in there. We have to play perfect to beat some of these teams. It would be nice to make the playoffs. It would mean a successful season.”