Log in

Lafferty era ends with Sparta District semifinal loss at the hands of Greenwood


Greenwood employed an all-in defensive strategy that slowed Sparta’s Jake Lafferty in the Trojans’ 66-59 Class 3 District 11 semifinal setback Thursday.

Lafferty finished with 24 points, but through the game’s first 20 minutes the all-stater was held to just five. Over that span, the Blue Jays took control of the contest and led by as many as 12 points.

“We tried to stop Jake the best we could,” Greenwood guard Collin Clark said. “He’s a phenomenal player, everyone knows that. It takes five to stop Jake and sometimes that's what we had to throw at him.” 

The Blue Jays’ Logan Sanders face-guarded Lafferty and the remaining four Greenwood players often shaded toward his direction. When Lafferty did get the ball, he repeatedly had to go through three defenders on his path to the basket.

Lafferty was 9-of-15 shooting from the field on the night. He had just five field-goal attempts in the first half.

With Lafferty not being able to get in position to score along the perimeter, Sparta countered by posting him up.

“In the second half, we put him in the middle,” coach Deric Link said. “We tried to take advantage of the guys we felt couldn't guard Walker (Loveland) in situations or keep Mason o(Letterman) out of the paint. We tried to put pressure on their help (defense) and cut off that help-side. We wanted to do that the entire game, but didn't do a good job of it early. In the second half, we did a better job and got better opportunities to score.”

Loveland and Braylen Luttrull accounted for 15 of Sparta’s 22 first-half points combining for five 3-point goals in the first half. Loveland was hot from the get-go, starting 3-of-4 from 3-point land. Luttrull shook off missing his first three 3-point tries and went on to hit a trio of treys.

Loveland ended with 16 points and Luttrull had 13.

Sparta’s supporting cast was more assertive offensively than they had been all season. 

We knew they had to be,” Link said. “With (Greenwood) putting so much pressure on Jake, we were going to have to have guys step up. Bralyen was aggressive. If we were going to win these big games, Walker had to look for his opportunity to score and he did.” 

Sparta held a 22-21 edge in the final minute of the first halF, before Clark ended the first half with a running jumper. Greenwood followed up by scoring the first eight points of the second half for a 31-22 lead.

The Blue Jays extended their advantage to 40-28

“In the second half, we got cold,” Link said. “We haven't played well in third quarters all year. We got off to a bad start to the third quarter and got too far behind.”

Lafferty’s furious scoring pace in the fourth quarter further enlightened everyone how good of a job Greenwood had done against him through the first 20 minutes.

Lafferty scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.

He closed strong, even after picking up his fourth foul with 4:54 remaining to play.

 A Lafferty tip-in inside of two minutes pulled Sparta (22-6) to within two points of the lead at 59-57 

Clark took over down the stretch, scoring Greenwood’s final seven points to cap his 26-point performance.

With the Lafferty era reaching its end, Link said Sparta’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder can take great pride in the trail he took toward such greatness.

“The biggest thing we can all take away from this is in order to pursue something great, you have to put it all on the line,” Link said. “You have to put in all your effort, put your heart and soul on the line, you have to be vulnerable to putting something on the line and know that in the end, if you're unsuccessful it's going to hurt like crazy. But it was still worth it because you pursued something really great with everything you had. That's what he did. What he has done he doesn't realize now, but I think in 10-15 years he will. He will see there is a younger generation that wants to play like Jacob Lafferty.