HOWARD CITY — The Sparta Spartans girls basketball team started quick, but had to hold off the pesky Tri County Vikings.
Sparta started the game with a 17-4 run in a 48-39 victory of the Spartans in the Class B No. 54 district final on Friday night.
It was the first girls basketball district title in school history.
“I’ve coached these girls since they were in fourth grade,” Sparta coach Matt McCallum said. “It’s always been their dream and we did it.”
Sparta started the third quarter with an 8-3 run for a 37-20 lead. It was their largest of the night.
“We went in at halftime and made our adjustments and we did really well,” McCallum said. “They made a run and they didn’t give up.”
Tri County came back hard with a 12-0 run to pull within 37-32 with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter. Sparta closed out the quarter with a 4-0 run for a 40-32 advantage.
“I applaud the girls effort, but to have to dig ourselves out of those holes the whole game is pretty tough,” Tri County coach Wes Zerlaut said. “Late in the third quarter it felt like we were going to make it all the way back, but they hit some key shots.”
A basket by Maria Lagunas made the score 40-34. Tri County’s defense held the Sparta offense quiet until 4:18 remaining in the game.
“We played hard against a good Tri County team. They played hard,” McCallum said. “We knew they wouldn’t die and we just had to weather the storm. We had to just finish the game and we did it.”
Tri County could not close the deficit as Sparta finished the game with an 8-5 run for the district title.
“They responded to the moment and the pressure early,” Zerlaut said. “We looked very nervous early on. The rest of the week we were loose and just played basketball. They (Sparta) just played the game more free tonight.”
Karley Cnossen led the Spartans with 15 points. Dani Wilde added 10 points and Samantha Kolenda had nine points.
Alexis Firovich led Tri County with 12 points while Kelsy Hackbardt added nine points.
Tri County finishes the season with a 5-18 record. They lose just three seniors on a team that began to play well late in the season.
“I want to thank the seniors for their four years and their contributions. We will miss them,” Zerlaut said. “But I think the future looks bright. Some kids got their feet wet this week and I hope the expectations go up for next year.”
Sparta improved to 14-8 overall and will face Big Rapids in the regional semifinals at Big Rapids on Tuesday. Big Rapids defeated Reed City 51-50 to advance.