Posted: Thursday, 07 February 2013 11:25PM

Sparta celebrates seniors with conference win

Sparta, Mo. (For  -- The Sparta Lady Trojans (17-6) defeated the Clever Lady Jays (5-13), 66-37, on Thursday night.  It was Senior Night at Sparta, and before the opening tipoff they honored their two seniors, Nicole Jenkins and Taylor Johnson. 
Sparta jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead and never looked back.  Clever, who only dressed eight girls for the game, would see fatigue become a factor as Sparta’s press caused them to commit too many turnovers. 

“It wasn’t pretty,” said Clever coach Brandon Weiss.  “They forced us into a lot of turnovers.  Cailyn Long does a really good job on that 1-2-2 full court press.  We think we can just throw over the top of her and she gets some easy steals from us because we go right into her rather than attacking the opening.” 

At the end of the first quarter, Clever had managed to fight back, but still trailed 22-11.  The second quarter would see the turnovers continue to mount for Clever, and Sparta convert these into points, leading at half, 39-19. 

“We talked about it at half, about just slowing it down,” said Weiss.  “Be patient, take a deep breath.  In the first-half, our trap didn’t do a very good job.  The second half we went to our box press and we created some turnovers.  We did a pretty good job in that second-half but the first-half just killed us.”

Sparta coach Mike Plante credited his teams preparation for the quick start to the game.

“The last few days we’ve really focused on pressuring with our defense and starting the game with intensity,” said Plante.  “The girls did a great job.  They came out right from the start and forced the issue with our defense.  We’ve been working really hard on running things right and passing the ball better.  It’s finally starting to pay off.”

Sparta was led in scoring by sophomore Cailyn Long with 32 points.  Long would sit out longer than normal in the second-half to give other players valuable game time experience to play in some different spots. 

“We’ve been working hard in practice,” said Long.  “Getting better at beating a press is something we have really concentrated on.  Tonight we rotated well on defense.  We also had some girls that got to play in some roles they aren’t used to playing.  That can only help us at district time.” 

The second-half would see Sparta continue to increase its lead, although the Lady Jays were more competitive. 

“We played some bench players in the second-half in some new spots,” said Plante.  “We’ve got to learn to play these new spots in case we get into foul trouble.  I’m pretty pleased with the way the girls handled the ball when Cailyn was out of the game.” 

Weiss focused on the positives that his squad could take away from tonight’s game.

“We’ve got to learn lessons from this” said Weiss.  “We kept talking about how we’ve got to keep competing, keep fighting.  When things aren’t’ going our way, we’ve got to slow it down.  Lexie Tennis did a great job for us tonight.  In the first quarter she had nine points and then all of a sudden she dropped off in the second, third and fourth quarter.  She continued to rebound well throughout the whole game.  We need to do a better job of recognizing her when she’s open and getting her the ball.”
Clever                    11           8             9             9             -37
Sparta                   22           17           14           13           -66
Clever—Lexie Tennis-15, Mackenzie Burns-8, Bailey Ghan-8, Amanda Postma-6.

Sparta—Cailyn Long-32, Tensa Gilley-13, Keeley Virtue-10, Nicole Jenkins-9, Meg Moles-2.

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