This is what high school basketball is all about.
Small-town, one high school communities get the spotlight this week as the Elko boys (7-0 league, 12-2 overall) play at Lowry (6-0 league, 11-5 overall) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a key Division I-A basketball matchup.
Banners are hung around town and there will be an overflow crowd as two of the best teams in the state vie for bragging rights, and first place in the North.
Buckaroos coach Chad Peters knows there will be a packed gym in Winnemucca. There will be six games played there Tuesday, freshman, junior varsity and varsity, by both the girls and boys teams. For the varsity, the Elko and Lowry girls play at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m. That’s if everything goes on schedule. Last year, the girls J.V. game went three overtimes, pushing the end of the boys game back to midnight.
Peters said there’s a lot of anticipation around Winnemucca.
“We’re excited, there’s a lot of buzz around town,” Peters said. “It’s a real big event, there’s signs around town saying ‘Beat Elko'” and ‘Good luck Bucks.'”
Elko is Lowry’s main rival, although Elko thinks of Spring Creek as its rival. Peters said there could be as many as 1,500 fans in the gym.
“Any time we play Elko, in anything, it stirs up a lot of emotions,” Peters said. “The buzz around this game is amazing. It’s nice when you don’t have to promote it.”
Lowry was runner-up in the Division I-A North Region last season, to Elko, although it lost four starters from that team.
Peters said the Buckaroos recent success has become self-perpetuating.
“The kids around here get really excited, the fifth and sixth graders, when they come to a game and and see all the people and hear the band and hear the crowd cheering. It really makes those kids want to be better basketball players,” Peters said. “When I go out to elementary schools it’s really easy to say ‘You guys have a chance to do what those (high school) guys are doing.’ It’s easy to maintain a sense of school pride.”
Elko played in the state championship game last season, losing to Clark, 43-25. The Indians have most of that team back, as well as five seniors who were freshmen on the team that played in the state championship in the 2011-012 season.
“That doesn’t get you any extra baskets,” Elko coach Chris Klekas said of that experience. “It will be a fun high school game. Real competitive. It’s two real good teams, playing good basketball.”
This marks the end of the first round of league play. The teams play at the opposing site during the second round. Lowry is at Elko on Feb. 14 to end the regular season.
“The kids know it’s a big game. You want to steal a game on the other teams floor, if you can,” Klekas said. “Our concentration level has to be really high.”
Senior Nathan Klekas leads the Indians, averaging 16.7 points per game and pulling down 8.6 rebounds. Marshall Dumas is next at 9.6 points per game.
Elko’s two losses were to teams from California and Washington in mid-December. Elko is coming off a 66-34 win over Truckee on Saturday in which sophomore Eric Klekas hit 7-of-10 3-point attempts en route to scoring a team-high 23 points.
Chris Klekas is looking forward to the electric atmosphere Tuesday.
“It’s a packed house. There’s screaming,” Klekas said. “I tell the kids, ‘These are the games you want to play in. It’s a fun game. It’s one you’ll always remember.’ No matter whether you win or lose, it’s a great experience.”
Christian Gray leads the Buckaroos in scoring at 9.7 ppg and Garrett Naveran is pulling down 5.4 rebounds per game. Lowry has lost to Reno twice this season and also lost to Reed, Mojave and Faith Lutheran.
“They don’t make mistakes, they play very hard. It will be a fast-paced, physical game,” Peters said of Elko. “Elko is by far the best team in the north. Only Galena matches up with them.”
Lowry will try to match up in one of the state’s most intense rivalries.
“We’re just trying to not get beat by 50,” Peters said, jokingly.
Boys Division I-A
WHO: Elko boys (7-0 league, 12-2 overall) at Lowry (6-0 league, 11-5 overall)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.