Sparta coach Larry Brown couldn’t immediately recall afterwards the last time the Trojans beat Crane, or won a conference championship.
The winless streak against Crane – which dated back to Jan. 10, 2009, for the record – is over. And the Trojans are two conference wins away from ending their however-long SWCL championship drought, too.
Collin Gimlin and Landon Davis combined for 55 points as Sparta controlled the second half to defeat Crane 69-55 at home Tuesday night in front of a lively home crowd.
The win bumps Sparta to 14-7 overall and 5-0 in the SWCL, with upcoming league games against Clever and Blue Eye standing in the Trojans’ path toward a conference title.
“It’s amazing,” Gimlin said. “We have to thank our crowd for coming out and supporting us tonight. There’s not a better feeling than beating Crane tonight, especially since they’ve beaten us every year I’ve been in high school. Coming out my senior year and beating (Crane), that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”
Gimlin surpassed 1,000 career points in the victory. His 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter pushed Sparta’s lead to 48-33. Brown immediately called timeout after the basket and an official announcement was given on the scoring feat.
Entering the game, Gimlin was 25 points away from the milestone.
“I thought, ‘If he got 25 tonight, it’d be a really good thing for us,’” Brown said.
It was a two-man attack for Sparta, which had lost its last nine games against Crane. Davis had 25 points, many of them coming at the free throw line where he was a perfect 13-for-13 on the night.
“We rely heavily on those two,” Brown said. “Gimlin, to get his 1,00th point in this big of a game, was pretty special. They’re just great players for us and they have great teammates who are willing to find them, get them the ball and allow them to score that many points. And be happy for them.”
Sparta led by six at halftime and by double digits for most of the second half. Crane got as close as eight points in the third quarter, but Sparta answered with a spurt to take a 45-33 lead into the fourth.
With shots not falling for Crane in the fourth, Sparta’s lead swelled to over 20 midway through the period before both teams brought on their reserves in the final minutes.
Dalton Hayes (16) and Tanner Gold (14) combined for 30 points to lead Crane.
According to MSHSAA online records, Sparta’s last win over Crane came in January 2009 at the now-defunct SWCL Tournament. Sparta won that game 51-50, but Crane won the two other meetings that season, including 57-54 in the district tournament.
Sparta plays at Pleasant Hope this Friday, then travels to Blue Eye next Tuesday. The Trojans host School of the Ozarks on Feb. 12 and face a potential SWCL title game on Feb. 16 against Clever, which is also senior night for Sparta.
Crane (13-5, 1-1) plays at Clever on Thursday in a makeup game, then faces Walnut Grove at SBU on Saturday.
Sparta 69, Crane 55
Crane 10 16 7 22 — 55
Sparta 13 19 13 24 — 69
Crane – Dalton Hayes 16, Tanner Gold 14, Colton Elder 8, Bryston Branstetter 8, Ramsay Cook 3, Wyatt Vaught 3, Brayden Cook 2, Deven White 1,
Sparta – Collin Gimlin 30, Landon Davis 25, Jade Perez 6, Logan Rutherford 5, Tristan Eaton 3