The final scores are almost identical and the scripts eerily similar, as well. But the fashion in which Hartville got the best of Sparta both last season and this year were different.
The Trojans fell to the Eagles 53-45 Tuesday, after losing at Hartville 55-45 a year ago.
Sparta let a six-point, third-quarter lead slip away this time around, after losing a 10-point, third-quarter advantage last season.
“Last year, we didn't do a great job on their screening action and they made a lot of 3s,” Trojans coach Deric Link said, while comparing Hartville’s comebacks against Sparta. “(On Tuesday, Eagles coach Brett Reed) posted up our guards in the second half. That was the (halftime) adjustment he made. Our guards didn't do a good job of fronting. We didn't do a great job in help situations. We weren't solid like we wanted to be and gave them some easy ones.”
Hartville outscored Sparta 21-8 while turning a 29-23 deficit a couple minutes into the second half into a 44-37 lead with three minutes remaining. The Eagles shot 71 percent from the field (12-of-17) in the second half, with Payton Cogdill scoring 18 of Hartville’s 32 second-half points.
“They were getting us in the post, big-bodying us down low,” Sparta forward Trenton Ingle said. “We couldn't get a stop.”
All this after the Trojans revved up an already jacked home crowd over the first two quarters and the first two minutes of the third quarter.
Jake Lafferty absolutely annihilated two Hartville shots and hammered home a breakaway dunk to add to his ever-growing highlights reel. ‘The Black Curtain’ wildly gave its approval of his explosive play by being as loud as it has ever been during the Lafferty era.
The decibel levels at Sparta on Tuesday have only been rivaled in SWMO by Springfield Central’s home gym, ’The Pit,’ over the past two seasons.
“For the dunk Jake had, it was really loud. It was piercing my ears,” Ingle said. “A lot of good plays were made and people were really excited.”
However, the electric environment failed to unnerve Hartville and didn’t bring out the best in the Trojans.
Sparta scored just 16 points over the final 14 minutes.
“Adrenaline and motivation can go two ways. It can wear you down or give you more energy,” Link said. “It all depends on how you use it.”
Lafferty was strong from the start to the finish. He led everyone with 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds.
As a team, Sparta shot 40 percent (17-of-42).
Ingle provided the Trojans a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter. But another one of the winning adjustments Hartville made was amping up its defense on Ingle. He attempted just one shot in the second half.
“They stepped up on me. I didn't get another open look after I hit the second (3),” Ingle said. “(I) would be running around trying to get open, but couldn't get open.”
Sparta (19-5 overall and 2-2 in the Summit Conference) will try to shake off the sting of two home losses in less than two weeks. This was the Trojans regular-season home finale. They won’t be back home until hosting Class 3 District 11 Feb. 20-24.
“They love their basketball here, it was 'Senior Night' and it's going to be like this again when we get to District time,” Link said while talking about Sparta’s faithful. “It’s an edge for us. We've got to make sure we're doing the things we're supposed to do on the court to give us an edge.”