Posted: Friday, 07 December 2012 1:16AM

Sparta pushes past Greenwood, advances to title game

Springfield, Mo. (For  -- The Sparta Lady Trojans defeated the Greenwood Blue Jays 49-40 at the Lady Warrior Classic Thursday night after three close quarters and a last-minute burst of energy.

Sparta’s leading scorer, Cailyn Long (28 points) said, “This was the first game that someone actually got up and pressured us, and I think that rattled us a little, but we composed and got it together and once we did, we started scoring points.”

According to Sparta’s coach, Mike Plante, Long has consistently scored in the mid-20s this season. That might explain why Greenwood’s leading scorer, Kelsey Nau (11 points), and their guard Crosby Garrison (6 points) double-teamed Long throughout the first half of the game.

Greenwood’s defensive strategy was moderately effective; they kept Long down to six points during the first quarter, and had a narrow, 14-13 lead to show for it at the start of the second.

“We were really wanting to press the tempo and get up and down the floor, but Greenwood did a real good job of slowing us down,” Plante said.

Sparta’s offense found more opportunities in the second quarter, putting up 12 points to Greenwood’s 9, but Greenwood’s Amy Abdalla (6 points) remained an obstacle for the Trojans. 

Abdalla, a 5’11 freshman, was the sole member of the Greenwood team with the height to stuff the Trojan shooters, including Long.  With her help, the Jays kept Sparta down to 8 points in the third quarter.

Greenwood started the fourth quarter trailing Sparta by only one point, 33-32, but started to slow down in the last five minutes of the game.  Sparta’s guards, Long, Meg Moles and Brandi Stevens, stuck to Nau and the Jays’ other forward Anna Turner (9 points), effectively shutting down Greenwood’s offensive opportunities.

“In those last three minutes, we kind of settled into what we were wanting to do.  Our guards did a great job of setting screens and we got the ball into [Long’s] hands really quickly,” Plante said. 

“Long was able to find some other guards open when they started double teaming her again, and what made the difference was finding those open spots.”

The Trojans will advance from this win to play in the Lady Warrior Classic championship game against Springfield Central on Saturday, December 8 at 4 p.m. 

The Jays will play for third place against Mansfield at 2:30 p.m. also on Saturday, December 8. 

Sparta—Cailyn Long 28, Keeley Virtue 5, Brandi Stevens 5, Meg Moles 4, Taylor Johnson 3, Tensa Gilley 2, Nicole Jenkins 2.
Greenwood—Kelsey Nau 11, Anna Turner 9, Crosby Garrison 6, Abdalla Amy 6, Courtney Whitlock 3, Hailey Jo Hopkins 3, Mady Giacin 2. 

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