Sparta wins first district title in 32 years over TC


By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 9:35 am on Monday, March 12, 2012

Tri County guard Devin Longoria looks to make a pass during Friday’s Class B district final at Belding. Sparta won its first district title in 32 years with a 52-33 win.

BELDING — Sparta is now home to two 2012 district basketball titles.

The Spartans boys basketball team followed the lead of their girls team and defeated the Tri County Vikings 52-33 for their first district title in 32 years. The Spartan girls won their first ever district title on March 2 with a 48-39 win over the Vikings, as well.

Sparta players used their size in a physical game to outscore the Vikings 29-12 in the second half en route to victory.

“Our bigs stepped up,” Sparta coach Mike Cnossen said. “We had a lot of turnovers. Those are the things we have to take care of next week in regionals. We will celebrate the win right now.”

Sparta did it shorthanded. Already down two players, the Spartans lost one and nearly two more players for the entire game.

With 6:35 to go in the second quarter, Sparta’s Zach Leach and Ethan Babkiewicz collided while trying to block the shot of Tri County’s Devin Longoria. Longoria’s shot gave the Vikings a 12-10 lead.

Sparta lost Babkiewicz for the remainder of the game with a concussion. Leach did not return until the fourth quarter.

“I got a little worried in the first half when Zach and Ethan both went out with head injuries,” Cnossen said. “Ethan has a concussion, but we got Zach back in the game. I thought that might change the game a little bit, but our guys stepped up and played well.”

Sparta went on a 9-2 run following the injuries to open up a 21-14 advantage. Junior Ben Sheckler scored six of those points for the Spartans inside the paint.

“They were tougher inside,” Tri County coach Chad Gould said. “Once we started to get beat around a little bit, we kind of backed out and settled for threes and we weren’t getting good shots.”

Sparta led the Vikings 23-18 at the half. Tri County hit four three-pointers for 12 of their 18 first half points.

“We didn’t play well offensively. I thought we tried to run our offense,” Gould said. “They were pretty physical with us and it took us out of our game. We didn’t do well to adjust.”

The Spartans came out at halftime and quickly extended the lead to 11 points with a 8-2 run. The final two points of that run came courtesy of two free throws by Jared Bradford.

Bradford was shooting those because of a technical foul on Tri County’s Longoria. The technical foul kept the Vikings’ leading scorer on the bench for the remainder of the game.

“We have a team rule. A technical foul and the player sits,” Gould said. “It hurt us. It’s the toughest decision I’ve had to and probably will ever make, but I had to. It doesn’t matter what game it is, a rule is a rule.”

Tri County chipped the lead to six points at 33-27 after six straight points by Mitchell Goerner late in the third quarter.

Sparta tightened their defense again and outscored the Vikings 15-6 in the final quarter for the win.

Longoria led the Vikings with 11 points. Brandon Peterman added nine points.

Bradford led the Spartans with 14 points while Lucas Marble scored 10 points. In all, eight Spartans scored.

Tri County finished the season 8-15 overall.

Sparta (17-6) will face Big Rapids in the regional semifinals on Tuesday at home. The winner will face the winner of Muskegon Heights/Hemlock in the regional final on Thursday.

“It’s so surreal right now because it’s been so long,” Cnossen said of the win. “Our girls won, we won and finally Sparta basketball is starting to make a difference.”

SPARTA 52, TRI COUNTY 33

Tri County    6    12    9    6    —    33
Sparta    9    14    14    15    —    52

TRI COUNTY (8-15) — McKeever 3 0-2 0, Hawley 1 0-0 2, Goerner 2 1-1 6, Thurston 2 1-2 5, Longoria 3 2-2 11, Matulis 0 0-2 0, Peterman 3 0-0 9. Totals: 11 4-9 33. Three-point goals: Peterman 3, Longoria 3, Goerner. Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: Hawley

SPARTA (17-6) — Brown 3 2-4 8, Z. Leach 0 4-4 4, Dykstra 2 0-1 4, Bradford 5 4-5 14, Jensen 1 0-0 2, Sheckler 3 0-0 6, Marble 3 2-4 10, Babkiewicz 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 12-18 52. Three-point goals: None. Total fouls: 12. Fouled out: None.

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