Posted: Monday, 26 November 2012 10:20PM

Sparta wins home opener against Fordland



Sparta, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com)  -- After holding a commanding first half lead, the Lady Trojans limped through the second half to win their home opener Monday night against Fordland, 49-35.
 
For first year head coach Mike Plante, who replaced longtime Sparta head coach Jerry Songer, it was an ending he expected as his girls get used to his playing style, a more fast-paced, up-and-down tempo.

“New coach; new system – they’re working really hard,” Plante said of his girls. “Learning the new system is taking a little bit of time, but our effort is great.”

The Lady Trojans didn’t seem to have any issues moving the ball and finding open shots in the first quarter, hitting several outside shots as Fordland came out in zone defense to start the game. On the other end of the court, Sparta’s defensive pressure caused the Lady Eagles problems.

After the first quarter, Sparta had a 24-4 lead, mostly on outside shots from sophomore Cailyn Long and senior Nicole Jenkins.

The second quarter saw Sparta continuing to score willingly, as the Lady Eagles weren’t able to stop the outside shot. By the end of the first half, Sparta pushed their lead to 38-15.

But the second half was a different story for each team. Fordland head coach Kevin McDaris began turning up the pressure on defense, causing Sparta to struggle finding the rhythm they had in the first half. The Lady Trojans didn’t make their first field goal until more than halfway through the third quarter, as the Lady Eagles focused on shutting down Long, who earned all-conference and all-district honors last year as a freshmen.

Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles were able to find shots but were missing wide open looks. Fordland fell behind 45-19 after three quarters.

The fourth quarter finally saw some shots falling for Fordland, as they clawed back with stifling defense and getting to the free throw line. But it was a too little, too late for the young Lady Eagles.

McDaris said he was very happy with his team’s effort, which only has two returning players with minimal varsity experience.
“Tonight we didn’t start very well, but I thought we finished well,” said McDaris. “We knew it was going to be a little rough early. … It’s going to take us a little while to figure out our roles and get everyone involved.”
 
The Lady Eagles were lead by Ali Sparks with 11 points, mostly in the fourth quarter. Long was the scoring leader for Sparta with 18 points, followed by Jenkins with 7 points.

Sparta (2-0) will host Hurley on Thursday, while Fordland (1-1) gets a visit from Morrisville Thursday.

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