Defense paces Dayton to title game

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

DAYTON - Dayton picked up a good measuring stick Friday by downing 3A-conference rival Fernley 46-31 in the second round of the Sutro Classic, but how the Dust Devils may fair in league wasn't in first-year coach Jason Santos' mind.

"The effort's great, (but) we're having a huge problem with our execution," he said. "We turned the ball right back over a lot of those times. But it's kind of typical for early in the season.

"But the effort's good. I'm pleased with that. We've just got to get the bugs out."

The tournament host committed 18 turnovers in the game as it struggled to consistently make good decisions with the ball. The Dust Devils (2-0) turned it over three straight possessions at the end of the first quarter before Marcos Macias hit a jumper off the glass to extend their lead to 12-6 at the buzzer.

Six of those turnovers came in the first quarter, but junior forward Jake Koch made up the difference. He finished the night with nine points, all coming in the first half. He used a 15-foot jumper to get Dayton an early 6-4 lead with 3 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the first and a pull-up jumper from 6 feet later in the quarter.

He went to score five of the Dust Devils 16 points in the second quarter, but missed a chance for more when he went 1 for 3 from the line.

"I was just making shots in the first; shots were falling down," Kock said.

The Vaqueros, though, kept themselves in it with a strong first-half performance by Cade Knutson. The sophomore guard displayed a shooter's touch, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the opening half. He two 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep Fernley within 30-18 at the half.

But when the Dust Devils returned to the floor in the second half, it was the defense that turned things around. Dayton forced Fernley to turn the ball over 10 times in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 39-25, while keeping Knutson from the basket.

"We just didn't handle their pressure very well," Fernley coach Dave Burns said. "It was all game long. I can actually say that we had 30-plus turnovers and you're just going to be able to do that in one basketball game."

The Vaqueros (1-1) never got closer than 15 points for the rest of the game.

Chris Sikora led Dayton with 11 points, Kage Walker added 10 and Macias finished with eight points.

Dayton will face Silver Sage in the championship game at 1:30 p.m. today. The Nighthawks beat Dayton last season 53-50 in this tournament.

"They're tough," Santos said. "They run the floor well. They've got a lot of senior, who have been playing together a long time. They're well coached; they're a good team. So we're going to have to bring it if we want to have a chance at the championship."


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