Fallon leads Northern 3A with 5 all-league selections
A quick turnaround that even caught its coach by surprise was recognized by the rest of the league as the Greenwave boys basketball team stunned the 3A to finish second in the league after taking fifth last year.
Chelle Dalager, the only female coach in the state guiding a boys basketball team, was named the Northern 3A Coach of the Year and five Fallon players were named to the all-league team.
Sophomore guard Elijah Jackson, who didn’t finish the football season due to a knee injury, came back to the court in time and was named to both the all-league and all-state first team. Junior John Cooley and sophomore Thomas Steele were named to the all-league second team, and juniors Trey Rooks and Hayden Strasdin were honorable mention selections.
“One of the things that really helped us was the fact they played with us for so long,” said Dalager, who was also named Coach of the Year when she led the Fallon girls in the 4A more than 10 years ago. “They knew what I expected. It’s a totally different level. They bought into the program and what we wanted to do. From Day 1, I really emphasized that we can play in the state tournament. If you want to be in the state tournament, this is what you have to do. I never did let them slack off.”
Fallon led the league in selections with five while Elko had four and Spring Creek and Fernley each had three. Elko’s Alex Klekas and Jeron Yopps, Spring Creek’s Jake Oliphant, Fernley’s Zach Burns, Dayton’s Trevor Burrows and South Tahoe’s McCallan Castles were named to the first team. Castles, who was the league’s MVP, and Burns were also first team, all-state selections, and Yopps, Klekas, Burrows and Oliphant were named to the second team.
Dalager, who coached most of the players in other leagues, including middle school, transformed the team quickly since being hired last summer.
Fallon improved in several categories compared to last year to finish second in the league with a 12-4 record, which included a 7-1 record at home, but fell to Spring Creek in the semifinal game at the regional tournament. Fallon, though, won the state’s academic team title with a 3.77 grade-point average.
“That was one of the highest GPAs I’ve ever coached,” Dalager said. “It’s a huge success. They’re not going to play basketball forever. They’ll go to college and be successful.”
The Greenwave won five more league games, scored 12.1 more points per game, allowed 7.5 points less per game, recorded seven more games scoring above 70 points and had won as many as six games in a row, compared to two the previous year.
“When they did finally figure it out, it was pretty amazing,” Dalager said about the team coming together. “The only disappointing part about it is how we finished. There’s so much more that comes out of basketball than the x’s and o’s.”
Jackson was third in the league with 15.3 points per game and converted 45 percent of the field. Jackson was also second in the league in steals with 2.0 per game and grabbed 4.4 rebounds per game.
“It was an extremely fun season because I got to come back from injury,” Jackson said. “I was not supposed to play basketball but it was a blessing to play with my friends.”
Dalager was pleasantly surprised with Jackson’s quick recovery.
“Because of the severity of the injury, the doctor told the interns that this is not normal. You can’t look at this as a common practice. He just heals really well,” Dalager said. “He could have played against Spring Creek and Elko when first got back but he was still a little unsure. He made the choice not to step foot on the floor. It was a mature decision because of how much he loves to play.”
Steele led the team in field goal percentage with 56 percent and was second on the team in points scored with 9.5 per game. He also had 1.2 assists and was second on the team in rebounding with 135 total boards (81 defense) for a 5.4 average to go with 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per game.
“He’s a hard worker and strong leader and he loves to win and plays hard,” Dalager said of Steele. “There are so many things you can say about him because he’s so talented. He was my biggest surprised. I’ve been around him for a long time and he’s a hard worker, and that hard work really paid off for him. He really stepped up.”
Cooley was deadly from deep, making 41 3-pointers (43 percent), and averaged 9.4 points per game. He was second on the team in steals with 44. But it was his defense that stood out the most although he was switched to point guard, a new position.
“We asked him to move to a position real foreign to him,” Dalager said. “When we asked him to do that, he did a great job stepping into that role. He’s a unique point guard because he rebounds so well and he’s a great shooter. You get 100 percent defensive consistently from him every night.”
Rooks led the team in rebounding with 143 total boards, including 101 on defense, for a 5.7 average and he also converted 49 percent of his shots to finish with a 7.5-point average. He averaged 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. His attitude both on and off the court impressed Dalager more than his statistics.
“He had pretty close to same statistics as Thomas did,” Dalager said. “He is a very nice young man as far as his behavior and demeanor. He’s raised very well.”
Strasdin averaged 6.8 points, 1.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Dalager said Strasdin, also her son, had the same expectations as the rest of the team but needed to gain more confidence on the floor. However, his presence, alone, made an impact.
“If he had the confidence in himself as everyone else did in him, he would be vying for a first-team spot,” Dalager said. “That’s something we’ve been working with for a long time. The things he does for us on the floor doesn’t show up in the stats. When he’s not on the floor, we struggle. Hayden’s height was an advantage for us. With one more year of confidence, he’ll be vying for another spot next year.”