Elko pulls away to win Northern 3A regionals

Fallon junior Thomas Steele is fouled by Elko in the key of the first half of Saturday's 3A Northern League Championship at North Valleys High School.

Fallon junior Thomas Steele is fouled by Elko in the key of the first half of Saturday's 3A Northern League Championship at North Valleys High School.

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RENO — Fallon’s scrappiness and never-die attitude won over both crowds Saturday, but Elko’s experience and its downtown 3-point shooting gave the Indians its 17th straight win over Fallon and this year’s title in the 3A NIAA Regional Boys Basketball tournament at North Valleys High School.

With the 65-57 win, Elko (24-2) swept the second-place Wave (24-3) in three games this season including a dramatic come-from-behind double overtime victory in December. Both teams qualify for the state 3A tournament, which begins Friday at the Orleans in Las Vegas. Fallon plays the winner of Mojave and Chaparral at 12:15 p.m., while Elko’s tipoff is at 4:15 p.m.

Fallon coach Chelle Dalager said Elko has won eight regional championships.

“You gain experience every time you go,” she said. “Elko is very disciplined. They have some very good shooters, and they capitalized on some of our mistakes. On defense, if we turned our head away on a play, that was usually the kid getting the ball to score.”

Saturday’s matchup was classic Nevada prep basketball at its best.

Fallon gave Elko a scare after cutting the regular-season champ’s lead to 44-42 going into the final quarter.

Elko, though, slowly pulled away from the Wave on a modest 5-0 run with baskets from brothers Sean and Alex Klekas, who later stunned Fallon with a backdoor play that went for a layup. Fallon came back with a pair of baskets from Elijah Jackson and Trey Rooks, but Fallon couldn’t keep up with the Klekas brothers.

Alex Klekas became a one-player wrecking ball after nailing three consecutive baskets to give Elko a 55-44 lead, but Avery Strasdin’ 3-point shot from the right side stopped the 8-0 Elko run.

While Alex Klekas was working his inside game, Sean sunk 4 of 5 free throws as each player led the game in scoring with 23 points.

On the other end of the floor, though, Fallon’s Thomas Steele powered his way under the basket with six points to finish with 18.

“I’ve said it before. Thomas is a workhorse,” Dalager said. “He’s strong as heck I the way he runs the floor and defends. He is awesome, always in there.”

With 2:17 left in the game, Jackson fouled out on a block near mid-court, leaving a void on offense. Despite Steele and David McFalls clawing the Elko defense for points, the Indians pulled away with four free throws and a game-ending, uncontested basket from Ronin Rowley.

“I’m proud of their effort and proud of our post players,” Dalager said. “They played really well.”

Not having Jackson in the game hurt, Dalager said he dribbled to penetrate the Elko defense, and did it better than what the coaches saw during the year.

“He got to the rim every single time, sometimes between two and three people, but his shots didn’t fall,” Dalager said. “He’s normally a 56 percent shooter, but he was 25 percent. He did what we wanted him to.”

Elko sunk 10 of 12 free throws in the quarter and was 15 of 21 for the game, while Fallon went to the foul line five times in the game and made two.

“The game on Saturday was close until Elko pulled away at the end,” Hayden Strasdin said, adding he felt he and Steele were more successful in working well in tandem.

The long ball within a minute after the opening tipoff gave Elko a 3-0 lead on Joe Simpkins trey, but two baskets from Fallon put the Wave in the lead, 4-3.

Strasdin positioned himself for a putback basket, and Steele spun his 6-foot-3 frame around for a layup.

It what was a game of surges, Elko outscored Fallon 6-4 with Steele and McFalls each making a layup for the Wave. Johnny Cooley also scored on a layup, and Trey Rooks, who came in for Strasdin to battle Elko under the basket, stepped back for a 5-foot jump shot as Fallon trailed 14-1 going into the second frame.

Fallon kept the score close although Elko increased its lead by three points for a 29-24 halftime advantage.

Strasdin said his teammates wanted to defeat Elko, something they haven’t done in years.

“It was a will to beat them, always wanted to,” Strasdin said. “It’s always been a goal.”

The lead changed three times in the second quarter. Rooks uncontested 10-foot jumper brought the Wave to within a point, and after Jackson sunk a pair of free to tie the game at 20, he also sunk a basket 45 seconds later for a 22-20 lead.

On Elko’s ensuing trip downcourt, Jackson committed his third foul and left the game, thus giving the Indians a little more latitude on offense, starting a 9-2 run with Jackson on the bench. After Steele scored on a putback, Simpkins snaked his way around the Fallon defense for the final basket of the first half.

Fallon came within a point, 35-34, with less than 4 minutes left in the third quarter, but Elko’s defense stiffened, and the offense relied on a pair of treys from Sean Klekas including one that gave Elko a 40-36 lead.

During the final 1:25, though, Cooley banked a shot, and McFalls made an off-balanced layup after stealing the ball to tie the game at 40. With 13 seconds left, Elko took the lead when Alex Klekas took the inbound pass and laid it in.

For a 4-minute span in the fourth quarter, Dalager said the team missed seven shots in a row, which didn’t help.

Dalager said Fallon was able to shut down one of the Klekas brothers to single digit in scoring, but she had hope for the Wave to stop at least two of the brothers.

“That didn’t happen,” she said.


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