Top seeds Fair Grove and Walnut Grove displayed their offensive firepower in Friday’s semifinals of the Sparta Invitational Tournament.
After both posted lopsided wins Friday night, the two Groves will meet in Saturday’s title game, set for 5:30 p.m. at Sparta High School. The day begins with Bakersfield and Gainesville playing for 7th place at 1 p.m., followed by the 5th place game of Sparta vs. Lighthouse Christian Academy at 2:30, then Fordland vs. Forsyth for 3rd place at 4 p.m.
Thomazin becomes Walnut Grove’s all-time leading scorer
Logan Thomazin was off the mark on his first couple of field goal attempts, but if there was ever a night for him to keep shooting, it was tonight.
The junior guard become Walnut Grove’s all-time leading scorer as the Tigers routed Fordland, 89-70. Thomazin surpassed Tim McPhail, who graduated in 1976 with 1,733 career points.
“There are a lot of great athletes that have come through Walnut Grove,” Thomazin said. “I’m proud to have the record, (it’s taken) a lot of hard work.My teammates helped me a lot.”
Thomazin finished with 40 points. He entered the night needing 18 points to pass McPhail.
“I’m just glad my teammates trusted me,” Thomazin said. “Usually, when someone misses (three straight shots), they’re usually done for the rest of the game. My teammates kept encouraging me to shoot, so I kept shooting and they eventually fell.”
Walnut Grove had ample support alongside Thomazin.
The Tigers (19-1 overall) buried 11 3-pointers in the first half and 14 overall in the game. Thomazin made seven 3-pointers and sophomore Ryan Keith added five triples. Keith finished with 19 points and Hunter Gilkey scored 16.
“The good thing is, you can’t key on Logan because we’ve got other kids that can shoot it,” Meinders said. “Everybody does their job and gets the ball where they’re supposed to. Tonight, Logan was feeling it. You could tell early, he was wanting to get (the record).
“We talked about before the game, ‘That’s great. We like the individual awards and stats.’ But the main thing is, keep our focus on where we want to be at the end of the (season). This team’s pretty focused and they’ve got the right mindset. I like where we are right now.”
Walnut Grove built a 55-24 lead by halftime, but Fordland outscored the Tigers by 15 in the third quarter to make it competitive. Noah Sparks and Hunter Burks each scored 18 to lead the Eagles (14-6).
Walnut Grove also beat Fordland at home on Jan. 9, but only by an 11-point margin (74-63).
“We played really well – and played hard – in the first half tonight,” Meinders said. “We played Fordland a couple of weeks ago and we were kind of in a little funk, didn’t get after it. Tonight, we got after it defensively. Offensively, we moved the ball and knocked down open shots.”
Saturday’s title match is also a rematch of last year’s Sparta Tournament finals, when Fair Grove won 92-72.
“It wasn’t really that close, either,” Meinders said of the final score. “Fair Grove, size and great shooters, we’re going to have to play really well. We’ve got to rebound and guard.”
Fordland 10 14 28 18 — 70
Walnut Grove 26 29 13 21 — 89
Fordland – Noah Sparks 18, Hunter Burks 18, Noah Abbasi 17, Jake Farnsworth 9, Josh Holmes 4, Jace Uchtman 2, Hunter Young 2
Walnut Grove – Logan Thomazin 40, Ryan Keith 19, Hunter Gilkey 16, Dawson Meinders 9, Jaron Dishman 3, Kyle Keith 2
Fair Grove puts on scoring clinic, routs Forsyth
There may be no such thing as a perfect quarter of basketball, but Fair Grove had to come pretty close to achieving it against Forsyth.
Fair Grove, up by 12 at halftime, scored seven points in the first 31 seconds of the third quarter. It was a sign of things to come as the Eagles went on to outscore Forsyth 37-6 in the decisive third quarter, turning a somewhat close game into a 78-53 blowout.
Eagles coach Tim Brown said his team is starting to get its basketball legs. All 11 of Fair Grove’s varsity players participated in a fall sport.
“Earlier in the season, we weren’t getting those transition baskets that we normally get,” Brown said. “We’re starting to get that. We really feel like we’re starting to click. Our teams generally start to play good at this time of year. We’re hoping this team is kind of like those other teams.”
Garrett Kesterson sparked Fair Grove’s third-quarter surge by draining a 3 in the opening seconds, then turning a steal into a quick layup as part of the Eagles’ full-court press.
When the Eagles weren’t forcing turnovers, they were getting defensive stops and transitioning to offense as quickly as possible.
“When we’re at our best is when we’re getting stops, rebounding and getting out to do what we do best, which is run,” Brown said. “I thought the third quarter, we really did it.”
Fair Grove (15-4 overall) got a game-high 24 points from Garrett Kesterson. Senior Evan Fullerton, who recently surpassed 1,000 career points, added 17 points. Freshman Cole Gilpin added 16 points and junior Steven Huskey scored 12.
Fair Grove made 10 3-pointers.
“We didn’t a very good job of… much… in the third quarter,” said Forsyth coach Joshua Hart. “Fair Grove’s tough. You go to help off on anybody, they make a pass out, and any one of their guards can shoot it.”
Forsyth (11-6 overall) got 20 points from junior Micaiah Rocha and 14 points from senior Chase Davidson. The Panthers played Fair Grove to a 69-64 home loss in late November.
Forsyth 10 15 6 22 — 53
Fair Grove 15 22 37 4 — 78
Forsyth – Micaiah Rocha 20, Chase Davidson 14, James Kohn 6, Trey Henson 4, Anthony Stanford 4, Tyler Groves 3, Dawson Deroo 2
Fair Grove – Garrett Kesterson 24, Evan Fullerton 17, Cole Gilpin 16, Steven Huskey 12, Garret Potter 5 Dalton Cloyd 2, David Oplotnik 2
Lighthouse duo leads Chargers over Gainesville
Lighthouse Christian got 44 combined points from senior point guard Michael Beamen (23) and freshmen center Tanner Thouvenot (21) to lead the Chargers to a 64-56 victory in the consolation semifinals.
Gainesville led by 18 at halftime (41-23) but saw Gainesville get as close as nine points (48-39) early in the fourth quarter.
Gainesville 10 13 14 19 — 56
Lighthouse Christian Academy 22 19 7 16 — 64
Gainesville – Jaxon Britt 18, Kenny Grisham 14, Wyatt Wilson 5, Garrett Morgan 5, John Hossman 2
Lighthouse Christian Academy – Michael Beamen 23, Tanner Thouvenot 21, Luke Davis 12, Zach Ward 8
Free throws lift Sparta over Bakersfield
Sparta used some clutch free throw shooting in the final minute to prevail (42-38) in a low-scoring game against Bakersfield in the other consolation game.
The Trojans split a pair of free throws with with 21 seconds remaining to go up 38-35. Bakersfield freshman Cole Summers scored to make it 38-37 with 10 seconds remaining.
Sparta’s Wade Little was fouled and went to the line, where he made both free throw attempts with 8.1 seconds remaining, putting the Trojans ahead 40-37. Sparta fouled to prevent Bakersfield from taking a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
The Lions made their first free throw attempt but missed the second try. Logan Rutherford grabbed the rebound and was fouled with .8 seconds remaining and Sparta ahead 40-38, before making both free throws on the other end to seal the victory.
The Trojans were playing without their leading scorer in senior Landon Davis (injury).
Bakersfield 7 11 8 12 — 38
Sparta 9 9 14 10 — 42
Bakersfield – Derik Murphy 11, Cole Summers 8, Nathan Scott 6, Jordan Kuk 5, Reece Anstine 4, Hunter Bentley 2, Tristan Morris 2
Sparta – Jade Perez 11, Collin Teague 8, Wade Little 7, Logan Rutherford 7, Dakota Lafferty 5, Braxton Lilly 4