The Sparks boys basketball team only needed to look to last year for motivation in the opening round of the Division I-A North region tournament.
The Railroaders avenged last season's playoff upset with a 53-44 win over Fernley on Tuesday at Sparks.
"(Last year's loss) had a really big impact on us," senior center Darius Devine said. "We didn't want a repeat."
Getting the win against Fernley held a lot of meaning for a Railroader team that had revenge in mind all week.
"We watched last year's film as part of practice," Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. "It was a reminder of what these guys are capable of doing."
The Railroaders took notice and advanced to the semifinals of this season's tournament. The team was led by senior guard Keiffer Putman's 17 points, and senior forward Bobby Brown's double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds).
Sparks led by double figures during much of the game, but allowed Fernley to hang around. In the second half, the Vaqueros made several runs to get the game within two possessions, but each time Sparks had an answer.
"Composure got us through it," Schreiber said. "They had a couple of waves of shooting that we had to thwart off. It wasn't one of our greatest performances, but it was a mental test that they had to fight through. That's always a positive thing at this point."
Sparks' size presented problems for Fernley. The Railroaders grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and were able to post up Devine (11 points, nine rebounds) to get easy baskets when jump shots weren't falling.
"The only thing I could do was trust my teammates and do what I had to do to get inside," Devine said.
Devine was the focus of Fernley coach Derek Miller's game plan, but the 6-foot-4 center proved too difficult to keep off the glass.
"We knew we had to control the boards and we didn't," Miller said. "Devine killed us on the boards. Their whole team did. We made a run late, and I thought we had a chance to close the gap. They just made more plays down the stretch than we did."
Sparks will play Lowry at Wooster in the semifinals on Friday. Sparks dropped the first meeting between the two schools, 52-30.