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Young Dayton boys hoops hope to continue success

With seven new players on the roster, Dayton High boys basketball coach T.W. Cunningham is looking for continued improvement during the preseason portion of the Dust Devils’ schedule.

Cunningham will find out Tuesday just how much his team has progressed since practice started in mid-November when his team travels to Fallon to open the nonleague season (7 p.m.)

Cunningham and the Dust Devils are looking to improve on their 19-10 record of last year. Dayton reached state for the third straight season, and for the third straight year, was eliminated by Faith Lutheran.

It won’t be easy with just five players ” center/forward Tannar Wood (12.4), combo guard Marty Espinoza (0.9), power forward David Gomez (1.3), forward Chris Sikora (2.0) and guard Dakota Lee (0.2) ” with varsity experience.

The aforementioned group will be asked to replace Ryan Ransdell, Hans Meyer, Josh Goodfellow and Byron Trigueros.

“Probably experience,” said Cunningham when asked what his biggest concern was entering the season. “We need to be getting better every game.

“I like our effort. I think we have some basketball skill kids here. We just have to improve and get that experience. I’d like to be able to play all 12 kids, but I don’t know if that will happen. There is a good chance we’ll play 10. Everything (playing time) is open.”

Simply put, Cunningham is more worried about making sure his team is ready for league play than winning a ton of pre-season games, which is ultimately what counts. He said a lack of height will have an impact on how the team plays.

“I definitely need them to be leaders; helping the young guys out,” Cunningham said of his veterans.

“We’ll play faster I think. We have to take advantage of our strengths. I don’t think anybody in our league is going to be that gigantic.”

Wood, the leading returning scorer in Northern 3A at 12.4 a game, is expected to have another big season. He is joined inside by David Gomez, who despite being only 5-10, can bang with taller players.

“Athletically, he’s pretty gifted,” Cunningham said. “He moves well for his size. David was a good defensive player for us last year. He’s a wide kid. That helps him playing underneath. Definitely it (the weight and width) helps him get position.”

Sikora, Espinoza and Lee didn’t play a whole lot last season, but Cunningham hopes their limited experience last year will help this year.

“Chris is a 3-4 guy (small forward and power forward),” Cunningham said. “He worked hard over the summer on his short-range (offensive) game. Marty plays outside primarily. He’s been a steady player (so far).”

Connor Conroy, Kage Walker, Nate VonAhsen, Eli Tussing, Marco Macias, Jeff Peterson and Jake Koch round out the squad.

After Fallon, the Dust Devils will host their annual Sutro Classic Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Besides Dayton, the field includes Battle Mountain, Rain Shadow Charter School, Lone Pine, Bishop, Fernley and Wooster.

Action begins at 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The finals are slated for 1:30 p.m.

– Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281