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A week after McMurry reaches 1,000 points, Loveland gets to 100 wins for Sparta


Few programs have enjoyed and endured the extreme highs and lows Sparta’s girls basketball program experienced over the last 15 years.

The Lady Trojans were 31-0 and Class 2 state champs in 2009 and won 120 games over a incredible five-season stretch from 2008-2013. Yet, they went on to plummet to records of 3-22, 7-18 and 1-24.

Coach Josh Loveland is counting on Sparta’s fortunes to be far less varied in future years, starting with his status.

The sixth-year Sparta coach picked up his 100th career win Tuesday in the Lady Trojans’ 72-42 triumph against Spokane.

Sparta is 18-7 overall and 6-1 in the SWCL this season, after back-to-back 19-win campaigns.

“I speak about consistency a lot to a lot of people,” Loveland said. “Consistency in coaching, I tell people all the time, is super important. The consistency of having the same coach for a while makes a difference.

“When I took over at Sparta, I was the fourth head coach in five years,” he added. “You look at coaches like Ken Elfrink. He’s been at Blue Eye for 20-some years and his teams are always good. Those kids know what to expect from him. I think that’s where my program is starting to get. My kids know me and know what to expect. They know they are going to have to play hard and compete in practice.” 

Loveland arrived Sparta as an assistant, after being a head coach at Galena for two seasons. His teams at Galena were a combined 24-29. His Sparta teams are a combined 77-80, after a 91-63 win Wednesday at Marion County Early.

“I took an assistant’s job at Sparta to get back home,” Loveland said. “It was important enough to me to step away from being a head coach and take on an assistant’s job. The next year, I took over as the head coach.

“The reason our program is where it’s at now is because of the kids we have,” he added. ‘We’ve got kids willing to work hard. They’re willing to play multiple sports and willing to play outside of the school with travel ball. They are really good kids who are fun to be around.”

Likewise, the Lady Trojans appreciate the work Loveland logs to help put his players in position to win.

“He does so much for us,” guard Shelby McMurry said. ‘He stays up late watching games, just to make sure we’re fully prepared. He goes home and watches our game, even if we get home after midnight. He analyzes it two or three times before he goes to bed.”

Loveland liked what he saw out of Sparta at Spokane. The Lady Trojans led 22-18 in the second quarter, before blowing the game wide open with a 40-8 run. By the end of the third quarter, they were up 62-26.

Sparta repeatedly converted turnovers out of its full-court press into layups.

McMurry had all 28 of her points through the first three quarters and thus had outscored the Lady Owls at that juncture.

Last week, the senior guard joined Sparta’s 1,000-point club. Of course, she reached four figures in only three seasons, after not playing as a junior.

“To have the year she has had is pretty incredible,” Loveland said.

Spokane (14-12 and 4-3) received 19 points from Raylen Wallace.

Looking ahead to Districts, both Sparta and Spokane will tip off Class 3 District 11 play Saturday at Sparta. Sparta plays Conway (7-15) at 3:30 p.m., while Spokane plays Pleasant Hope (12-11) at 2 p.m.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” Loveland said. “Our defense is definitely good enough to help us pull off an upset. If we can get past Conway in the, we’ll get (second-seeded) Strafford. If we can hit some shots, I think we will have a chance against them.”

SPARTA (72) — Roller 4 0-0 9, Fulton 1 0-0 2, Youngman 4 2-2 10, McMurry 12 3-5 28, Loveland 2 4-4 9, Holt 2 2-2 7, Brown 2 3-3 7.

SPOKANE (42) — King 2 0-3 4, Ryan 1 0-0 2, R. Wallace 3 11-13 19, Czachowski 0 0-2 0, T. Wallace 1 0-0 3, Mehrhoff 2 4-6 9.

Sparta    17 18 27 10 - 72

Spokane 11 11  4  16 - 42

3-point goals - R. Wllace 2, Roller, McMurry, Loveland, T. Wallace, Mehrhoff.