They know the feeling all too well.
Call it déjà vu.
The Greenwave boys basketball team surprised the league last season, finishing second behind Elko to receive a bye in the regional tournament. All Fallon needed was one win to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1989. But that didn’t happen as Spring Creek ended Fallon’s turnaround season.
This year, Fallon finished second again, losing only twice in the league season, both to Elko, unlike last year when Fallon lost four league games. But this year’s rendition of Greenwave basketball is much better.
“Just one more year of experience because we’re really made up of the same guys,” Fallon coach Chelle Dalager said about the difference in teams. “I’m sure they remember how much it hurt to lose last year so I think we have in our favor.”
Fallon leads the state in scoring with 74.5 points per game and 53 percent from the floor. Juniors Elijah Jackson and Thomas Steele are the most efficient scorers in the league and senior Johnny Cooley is the deadliest 3-point shooter.
But throw out the statistics this week as the 3A Northern regional tournament opens on Thursday. No.2 Fallon (15-2) awaits the winner of No. 3 Lowry (13-5) and No. 6 Fernley (9-9), which Fallon handled in Saturday’s regular-season finale.
“In high school, it’s who shows up on game day,” Dalager said. “I’ve seen the best players in league disappear in state championships and regional playoffs. It really depends on who shows up. I have all the confidence in the world they can. They just have to show up. Practice intensity is going to be high. I asked them if wanted Monday off to rest, but they said no. They want to shoot. That tells me where their mind is at.”
Jackson, whose dunks have brought crowds to their feet in awe this season, said this year’s team is more relaxed but at the same time, hungrier more than ever to get to the state tournament for the first time in 30 years.
“We’re more hungry to go it. We know what we want. It’s kind of like our football team (which won state last fall). We’re just more hungry,” Jackson said. “We know each other better. We’re having such good practices. Like coach said, the only people that’s going to get us better is us.”
All eyes will be on Lowry and Fernley, who play Thursday night. Fallon came from behind against the Buckaroos to win by double digits and then easily handled Fernley, 79-57, on Saturday after Jackson poured in 33 points.
Dalager said Lowry’s been inconsistent this year but its playoff experience and basketball tradition could play a factor in the tournament.
“Lowry is a hit-and-miss team. They’re either hot or they’re not,” Dalager said. “Lowry’s got some experience with playoffs. They’ve got state championships and a whole group of people who are basketball minded.”
The Vaqueros, though, are young but having the makings of becoming a great team. Dalager said Fernley will be one of the top teams in years to come.
“Fernley’s a good group but they’re young. In the next few years, if they’re not in the top three, I’ll be surprised,” she said. “When you start two freshmen, you’re going to have your lumps but in the next few years, they’re going to have great success. They’re pretty talented group.”
No 1 Elko (17-0) awaits the winner of No. 4/5 South Tahoe (9-7) and Dayton (10-8), who also play on Thursday. The Indians are the team to beat as they go for their eight-straight regional title.
For Fallon, though, the attention is on getting its ticket punched to state and letting the rest fall into place.
“If you don’t get past the first game, there’s no regional championship,” Dalager said. “Making it to state is a huge accomplishment. They (Fallon) made a huge turnaround from the year before. It was overshadowed because they didn’t make it to state and ended the year with a loss.”
But Hayden Strasdin and the rest of his senior class (Cooley, David McFalls, Trey Rooks and Jace Harmon) don’t want a repeat from last year. The goal is – and has always been – to get to The Orleans next week.
“We’re able to click because we’ve played together for so long since rec ball tournaments and AAU. We’ve played together for a long time and now it’s finally here,” he said.