For the first time in the school’s short history – and in its first year of eligibility – the Oasis Academy boys basketball team is going to the playoffs.
Under coach Donald Schank, a longtime assistant under Corey Williams when Fallon played in the 4A, the Bighorns finished the league season with an 8-2 record with both losses coming to the defending state champion, Mineral County. The first of those two losses came down to the final quarter when Oasis Academy had the Serpents on the fence before they pulled out the eight-point win in January.
“The difference this year is our ability to score,” Schank said. “Defensively, throughout the season, we were weaker. We had quick kids (last season). You could slap somebody on them and they’re not going to get to the basket. All I had was Armahn (Brantley). Scoring was the big thing.
“Coming to the end of the season, our defense has turned up. The kids are moving quicker and doing better. We’re actually rotating to where we need to be and help. It’s getting there.”
Oasis Academy earned the 1A Central’s No. 2 seed and will face the 1A West’s No. 3 seed, Sage Ridge, on Thursday at 4:40 p.m. in the first round of the regional tournament at Mineral County High School. A win would put the Bighorns against the winner of the No. 1 West Sierra Lutheran-No. 4 Central Round Mountain quarterfinal on Friday in the semifinals. A second win advances the team into the championship and punches its ticket to the state tournament in Reno next week.
“The kids feel good. I feel this is going to be a close game,” Schank said about Thursday’s matchup. “We’re very similar in ability. They have a couple of good shooters. They rely on their man to man defense. It’s going to be matched up pretty even. I think they’re going to have a hard time with Armahn. We’ve got other shooters, too. That’s what’s nice about this year. We have other threats.”
The Bighorns faced Sage Ridge only once during the season when they lost, 46-45, on Dec. 13 in the Mammoth Winter Classic. Douglas Lee led Oasis Academy with 14 points and Brantley had 13 as the team shot only 36 percent from the floor. Since then, both teams have steadily improved, knocking off common opponents with Sage Ridge also challenging the top team (Sierra Lutheran) as Oasis Academy did with Mineral County.
“We weren’t rebounding very well. We gave up 16 second shots,” Schank said. “That was the biggest thing. Our turnovers were really low. It’s just getting those extra possessions. Whenever you lose a one- or two-point ballgame, it comes down to possessions.”
Spencer Uppal leads Sage Ridge in scoring with a 12.8-point average and Nate Mulvaney is pulling down 7.4 rebounds per game. For Oasis Academy, Brantley, Lee and Jacob Ferrenburg-Pike have been leading the team, especially during the last month. Brantley has upped his shooting percentage and leads the team with an 18.3 scoring average (also second best in the 1A state) and Lee is the team’s best rebounder at 8 boards per game.
“He’s been looking more to get others involved,” Schank said about Brantley’s offensive approach. “He hasn’t been able to do that in the past. This year, he’s got Jacob, Trevor and Douglas and some post players too. And they’re scoring. His assists are going up. I just have to give him thanks for getting them involved. He’s been working on that.”
Schank said the team’s excited about its first playoff appearance and is unsure of what to expect. As an assistant with Fallon, he’s used to seeing the Greenwave compete in the regional tournament but for these kids, it’s a brand-new experience.
“They’re pretty excited and they’re pretty good, too. They don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s not going to be like a regular-season game. We keep talking about it.”
Oasis Academy faced Sierra Lutheran, the 1A West’s No. 1 seed, in early January, dropping a 55-35 loss on the road after suffering a slow start that saw the Falcons jump out to an 18-9 lead. Along with the success of getting to the rim, Sierra Lutheran’s defense held Oasis Academy to 19 points through three quarters of play, building a 24-point lead by the end of the third. The Falcons limited the Bighorns’ offensive damage to two players as Brantley and Lee scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Oasis Academy swept Round Mountain during the regular season with a 48-35 win on the road in January and 63-50 victory in the home finale on Feb. 8.
As for the tournament, if Oasis Academy can get past Sage Ridge, Schank feels his team has a good chance against Sierra Lutheran if it advances, as well. A state berth would be on the line and there’s not better time for the Bighorns to make the best of it.
“We keep talking about it. We’re here now. Let’s do something special,” Schank said.
Oasis Academy wins Battle of the Ore Cart
The Bighorns won the Battle of the Ore Cart for the fourth consecutive year as the boys and girls teams both swept Coral Academy of Sciences-Reno on Thursday in Reno.
The Oasis boys won the opening game, 60-55, while the girls team won 48-14. The winner of the Ore Cart is a combination of points from both games as the Bighorns won the series, 108-69.
In the boys game, Brantley posted a game-high 21 points and Trevor Halloran scored 16, Lee had 14 and Pike added 10.
Eight players scored for Oasis Academy in the girls game after coach Dusty Casey started the second-string.
Brooklynn Whitaker led the team with a double-double, scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Sadie O’Flaherty added eight points and Taryn Barrenchea scored six. Tylie Norcutt, Sequoa Casey, Whitaker and Barrenchea each hit a 3-pointer.