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Much to Love(land) for Sparta in Trojans’ opening-round District win versus Spokane


Sparta’s spacing offensively set up the Trojans’ biggest space-eater to clinch their Class 3 District 11 opening-round win Monday.

Dexter Loveland, whose middle-linebacker build serves him well as as power forward, scored 26 points in Sparta’s 60-32 triumph against Spokane.

Sparta began to break away by making the extra pass along the perimeter in the first half.

“Basketball is a whole lot more fun to play when you have good spacing,” coach Deric Link said. “We have good players who can space the floor and understand our principles of what we’re trying to do. It’s hard to guard good spacing, that’s what makes all these teams that are really good so hard to guard.

“A point of emphasis for us is to keep running our offense until we get what we feel is the best shot for Sparta, no matter who it is,” he added. “We did a great job tonight of moving the ball and sharing the love with each other. We talk that the ball has energy, the more the ball moves and the more hands it touches, the more energy it gets and the better shot we’re going to get. When it has good energy, there’s a good chance it’s going to go in.”

Kavan Walker netted four 3-pointers in the first half to help stake Sparta to a 31-13 halftime lead.

“Making the extra pass in the first half set us up for a great shot,” Walker said.

The Trojans followed up by beating the Owls off the dribble toward an open paint and to the bucket.

Loveland delivered the knockout blow by scoring 18 points in the second half. He was able to square himself up to the basket for mid-range jumpers off the dribble.

Loveland often had Spokane forward Jaden McCoy defending him. McCoy’s movement was limited due to a knee injury.

“It sucks he got injured,” Loveland said. “It made him a little slower and made it a little easier for me.”

“We attacked that in the second half, isolating Dexter and letting him go to work against him,” Walker added.

Link also feels good about his team’s chemistry, citing the scene in the Trojans’ locker room, as teammates showered Loveland with congratulations.

“He had a big night. The most important thing about that is how much fun our kids had celebrating his success,” Link said. “I learned a long time ago from one of my coaches that when you have guys who are willing to celebrate others for their success, when it comes time for you to have success they will celebrate you. I love this group.”

The Trojans (17-10) challenge No. 1 seeded Skyline (18-7) tonight at 7. The District’s boys semifinals originally scheduled for Wednesday have been moved up a night due to freezing rain in the weather forecast. The other semifinal will match No. 3 Strafford (18-8) versus No. 2 seed Greenwood (20-7) at 8:30.

For many of Sparta’s players, this is their second and third go-around in the post-season. They’re ready to make a splash.

“We’re way more confident,” Walker said, comparing the players’ psyche to previous years. “We’re clicking on all cylinders and ready to compete for a District title.”

“We are growing through every experience we get,” Link said. “We’re going to have to keep getting better.”

SPOKANE (32) — Leigh 1 0-0 3, Wasson 3 0-0 6, McCoy 2 0-0 5, Riott 1 1-2 3, Tate 6 1-2 13, Nord 1 0-0 2.

SPARTA (60) — W. Loveland 1 0-0 2, Walker 5 0-0 14, Brown 1 0-0 3, Lafferty 3 3-6 9, D. Loveland 11 4-6 26, Roller 1 0-1 2, Letterman 1 0-1 2, Williams 0 2-2 2.

Spokane  6   7  11  8  - 32

Sparta    16 15 14 15 - 60

3-point goals - Walker 4, Brown, Leigh, McCoy.