But the Trojans made every effort to make a game of it.
The game opened up with Billings establishing a small, 3-point lead. Sparta was able to keep it close with a balanced offensive attack and strong rebounding by senior Jacob Shipman. Shipman had six rebounds in the quarter that ended in a 12-12 tie.
Billings coach Kendall Tilley said that Wildcats may have played to their opponents at the onset but came alive during the second quarter.
“I think they woke up after they saw that it was going to be a ball game,” said Tilley.
The Wildcats opened up the second quarter with four straight 3-point baskets and claimed an 8-point lead. Billings seniors Chad Yeokum and Austin Essick had hot hands as the Wildcats outscored the Trojans by 19 points in the quarter.
“We played our style of basketball,” Essick said. “We talked about it at the end of the quarter that we needed to start making some shots and play our style.”
“We did just that.”
Essick led the Wildcat attack with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals; Yeokum scored 22.
Sparta head coach Ryan Worley had hoped to minimize Billings’ opportunities to score.
“We shot the ball a little too quickly sometimes," he said. "I was hoping to limit their possessions but you just can’t stop them.”
Shipman had an outstanding night in the loss for Sparta scoring a game-high 28 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
"I had been shooting outside a lot,” Shipman said. “My coach told me before the game that I need to take the ball inside and score.”
The win pushes Billings’ record to 14-1 as they head to Forsyth on Friday. Sparta falls to 4-10 and will also face Forsyth in their next game on Monday in the first round of the Sparta Tournament.
Sparta 12 13 11 17 53
Billings 12 32 23 15 82
Billings: Bradley, 1; Chastain, 16; Driscoll, 3; Essick, 25; Meyer, 15; Yeokum, 22.
Sparta JV 50, Billings JV 49