FERNLEY — When the absence of several integral players could have cost Fallon their modest winning streak, the rearranged lineup against the Fernley Vaqueros Tuesday was not a cripple but an opportunity instead.
The Wave’s reserves stepped up for a rematch with the Fernley Vaqueros, beginning the second half of the season on a high note with a 53-36 victory at Fernley High School.
Fallon preserved their winning streak at 8-10 overall and 5-4 in D1-A and will defend it at home against Lowry, Saturday at 2:30 p.m., while the Vaqueros are 10-6 overall and 6-3 in D1-A.
Fallon coach Brad Barton agreed that it was a great win despite missing some of his bigger names, such as Clay Davison, and that Fernley’s off-night was all the more fortunate.
“They usually shoot a lot better than they did that night, but our defense took advantage of that, executed our game plan, and came out victorious,” Barton said.
“I think we just proved last night we can compete with anybody if we play at that level that we did,” Barton said. “Even though some of our guys are still out we still create some mismatches for other teams with the big guys we have available to us. Last night our post players created a lot of mismatches for Fernley. I know Lowry matches up a little closer to us since they have a big guy in the post and they have some great guards, so that matchup will be a little more equal with the lineup we have.”
Fallon players such as Kaleel Rickerson and Taylon Cordes got the chance to strut, led by Marshall Coverston and Cade Vercellotti as the dominant starting players that helped carry the tempo in the lineup of seven.
With more court time, Vercellotti’s aggressiveness on defense and offense came in handy for the Wave, bird-dogging Fernley’s faster players such as Zach Burns who was one of the main threats of the night according to Barton.
“I think Vercellotti is hands down the best defender in our league,” Barton said unabashedly. “Anytime we need a player stopped we put Cade on him, and one of their best basketball players Burns only had six points against Cade since he made him uncomfortable all night long with some excellent play.”
Though Vercellotti had the most chances under the net, Rickerson led the Wave in scoring with 18 points, a mismatch in height for Fernley since the only man they had to cover him was senior Tyler Roemer. Roemer may have made trouble in the past but he saw limited play this game and Rickerson could attack the center with Fernley’s defenders flinching to avoid a hit.
“They didn’t seem to have an answer for Kaleel,” Barton said. “They tried to bring their big guy in, but Kaleel played big in a game against some little guys. Early on he looked like he was in kind of a hurry but as soon as he slowed down and realized he was the biggest guy on the floor he did a good job.”
Vercellotti scored at 10 for the Wave, followed by Coverston at eight points, the bulk that came from free throws. Coverston had the second best free-throw average at 63 percent, just behind Rickerson at 67 percent since Fernley’s guards Drake Howe and Kenan McDonald fouled Rickerson, especially under the net.
With the readjusted lineup Coverston played the entire game, but it didn’t seem to slow him with reserves like Braxton Hunter and Cordes to help run the offense.
Hunter and Cordes worked with Rickerson as part of an uncharacteristically strong screen for Fallon. Hunter and Cordes would find the open lanes and slow down the passing with Coverston, who would then get the ball to Rickerson to break the guard for three consecutive layups in the third quarter.
“Hands down the captain of this team right now is Marshall Coverston,” Barton said. “We only really have one ball handler, and Coverston brought the ball by himself and held the presses all night long and he was able to find the guys who would get the baskets. We start and finish with Coverston and his leadership right now. We couldn’t do anything without him.”
In the first half of the season the Wave lost a heartbreaker by two points to Lowry in December, 48-46, and with the team he’s got now, it’s anyone’s game.
“Now that we’re home and playing with the confidence of a four-game winning streak, who knows,” he said. “My team surprised the heck out of me last night. I’ll never doubt them again.”
Despite several Fallon players who are suspended from play for breaking team rules, Barton said he was optimistic for the players who surprised him against Fernley.
“Sports have an opportunity to teach us a lot of lessons about life, and one of those lessons is that one person’s mistake is another person’s opportunity,” Barton said. “I’m just proud these boys seized the opportunity given to them by the mistakes of some other kids. They stepped right in, didn’t miss a beat and did the job that was expected of them.”