Dayton boys fail at line, lose to Spring Creek |

Dayton boys fail at line, lose to Spring Creek

Darrell Moody

SPARKS ” For the first time in five years, Dayton High’s boys basketball team won’t be in the state playoffs.

“It’s disappointing,” coach T.W. Cunningham said. “We expect to go to state and win state. That’s our goal every year. Whether we come up short here or in the state finals, it’s disappointing.”

You know what’s disappointing? When a high school boys basketball team goes 7 for 29 from the foul line, which is exactly what the Dust Devils did in their 65-58 loss to Spring Creek in the NIAA 3A Regionals Friday night at Reed High School.

Just think if Dayton shoots 50 percent from the line, its state dream hopes would still be alive, and the players would have left the locker room with smiles on their faces instead of tears in their eyes. Dayton missed its final 12 attempts of the game.

“They (free throws) killed us,” Cunningham said. “It was a little bit of everything (lack of concentration, technique).

“We shoot them everyday. We shoot them between drills. We even come in at lunch and shoot them.”

The biggest culprits were Tannar Wood, who went 4-for-13 yet still finished with 24 points, and Nate Vonahsen who went 1-for-7 en route to a nine-point effort. Even more frustrating was that Dayton was in the double bonus the entire fourth quarter, but couldn’t take advantage of it.

“I knew they missed quite a few,” Spring Creek coach Jim Haskins said. “That kept us in the game. We knew going in that they weren’t a very good free-throw shooting team.”

Despite the failure at the line, the Dust Devils put forth a great effort and were in it until the final minute.

“We played hard,” Cunningham said. “I can’t fault the effort.

“He (Wood) made some big ones and other ones he didn’t get the roll. No one else was going to step up.”

Indeed. The Dust Devils trailed 50-42 with a 7:10 left, but a 14-6 run, led by Wood and Connor Conroy (10 points), enabled Dayton to tie the game at 56 with 2:01 left. Wood had four buckets in that stretch and Conroy added a pair of two-pointers.

Spring Creek’s Luis Nolte (18 points) snapped the tie with 1:46 left, and after Wood misfired, David Morrell (16 points) drove the lane with 1:11 left to make it 60-56. Marti Espinoza missed from the outside on Dayton’s next possession, and then fouled Morrell, who knocked down one of two for a 61-56 advantage. Wood missed on the next possession and Jaron Jacobs drained two free throws with 23 seconds left to give the Spartans a seven-point bulge, 63-56, and end the Dust Devils’ dream.

Dayton does lose four seniors, including Wood, but there are some talented perimeter players returning, including Kage Walker, Conroy, Vonahsen and Jake Koch, all of whom figure to improve with a solid off-season under their belts.

In fact, Vonahsen was the Devils’ sparkplug in the first half. The freshman scored six of Dayton’s first eight points. His last field goal of the game came with 6:20 left in the first half, giving the Dust Devils an 18-12 lead.

Dayton led most of the first half until Spring Creek went on a half-ending 10-2 run to take a 32-28 lead. The Dust Devils were hampered by foul problems. Wood missed the final 2:46 after picking up his second foul. Forward David Gomez and Conroy each missed a lot of action after picking up three fouls apiece.

“The second quarter killed us,” said Cunningham, whose team yielded 23 points in the second quarter.

Not as much as the foul shooting.