Spartans hang on, go to state with 57-55 win
Elko Daily Free Press
ELKO — In the early stages of Friday’s Division 3A North semifinal game between the Spring Creek Spartans and the Fallon Greenwave, the Spartans dominated early and hung on late.
Spring Creek booked a trip to state and a spot in the regional championship with a 57-55 victory.
After not scoring points Thursday against Dayton, the Spartans tallied a bunch on Friday.
Fallon took a quick 2-0 lead by sophomore Elijah Jackson’s jumper, but the Spartans went up one with a three by senior Levi Yaunick.
Junior Hayden Strasdin drove the left side for a 4-3 lead for the Greenwave, but Spring Creek ripped off a 13-0 run.
Miner began the streak with a free throw, followed by a close finish by senior Dakota Larson — Miner forcing a timeout with a point-blank look in the left side.
From the reset, active hands and feet for the Spartans on defense turned into offense.
Senior Jake Oliphant finished a strong jump hook from the right block, and Yaunick cut backdoor for an assist from Miner — putting Spring Creek up 10 with a steal and stroll to the tin.
Senior Thomas Ledford capped the surge with a pair of freebies, opening a 16-4 advantage.
Jackson stopped Fallon’s scoreless stretch with a three, but Yaunick notched his third field goal with an aggressive take to the bucket.
Senior Daniel Eary took a charge for the Spartans, the quarter ending with the Spartans on top by 11 at 18-7.
In the second, Ledford opened the scoring with two from the stripe.
Jackson tallied his third score with a deuce, starting a 6-0 run, sophomore Thomas Steele scoring twice from the right side.
Oliphant finished in traffic from the middle of the lane, but junior Bryce Larson knocked down a pull-up jumper for the Wave.
Spring Creek answered the challenge with three straight scores of its own, opening a 28-17 lead.
Miner made another steal for a layup, Ledford scored on a follow-up and Yaunick cashed a pair of freebies.
Steele scored from an inbound pass, but Yaunick made a pivot move in the lane to the right block and dropped a bunny on a pass from Ledford.
Fallon scored the next four, Jackson coming free off a curl and senior Christian Nemeth making two free throws.
Yaunick scored from the right side on the fly, receiving a gorgeous lob pass from Miner.
Nemeth booked the next four for the Greenwave, but Oliphant grabbed a big board for a put-back to close the half.
Spring Creek led by seven at 34-27 going to the locker room.
The Spartans’ advantage nearly diminished in the first minute and a half into the third quarter.
Strasdin scored on the left block, followed by a bucket by Steele as Spring Creek’s defender attempted to draw a charging foul — the 6-0 run closing with a finish through contact by junior John Cooley.
Miner stopped the run with a pair of free throws, but the Greenwave pulled to within one on a hesitation layup in traffic by Cooley.
Fallon went up 37-36 on a cherry-pick deuce by Steele on an outlet look from Cooley with 5:15 remaining in the third.
Ledford regained the lead for the Spartans with two free throws, but Spring Creek lost sophomore Brock Richardson on the weak side — giving Fallon a 39-38 advantage.
Spring Creek took a timeout with 3:52 on the clock.
Ledford made a determined baseline drive and knocked down a free throw to tie the game, and gave the Spartans a two-point lead with a put-back on the right block.
Jackson booked a deuce and knotted the score at 41-all, but Ledford added another two-pointer for the Spartans.
A three-pointer from the left wing by Jackson bounced off the rim and fell for a 44-43 lead for Fallon, but the Greenwave’s star went to the bench with 1:30 remaining in the third with four fouls.
Cooley hammered home a triple from the opposite wing and a four-point cushion, but the Spartans reached the single-bonus without committing a foul — Oliphant pulling Spring Creek to within two at 47-45 with two freebies.
Ledford tied the game from the stripe with seven minutes remaining in the fourth, and Larson went to the line with the foul count at 10 — in the Spartans’ favor – giving Spring Creek a 49-47 lead and pushing the advantage to four with a layup on the left side.
Steele cut the lead in half from the line, but Oliphant was granted a blocking foul and finished with the hoop and the free throw — opening a 54-49 lead.
The lead was cut to three on a midrange jumper from Steele.
Ledford grabbed an errant shot and scored on the right block, putting the Spartans on top 56-51 with 2:39 on the clock.
Jackson dished an assist to Steele with 1:50 on the clock.
The Greenwave took a timeout with 1:22 remaining, trailing 56-53.
Spring Creek chewed up clock and went to the line but missed both free throws, Fallon slicing the lead to one with a finish by Steele on a dime from Jackson with 20 seconds remaining.
Miner went to the line with 16 ticks on the clock and made one free throw.
Trailing 57-55, Jackson went for the win.
He rose up for the game-winning shot, but the ball rattled around and came out — Ledford grabbing the rebound and sealing Spring Creek’s trip to state.
The Spartans nearly coughed a double-digit lead but held on for a 57-55 victory.
Ledford led the Spartans with 16 points, followed by 14 from Yaunick.
Steele scored a team-high 18 points for the Greenwave, Jackson closing with 14 points.
Oliphant scored in double figures with 11 points for Spring Creek, Cooley adding seven points for Fallon.