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Luttrull lights up Kansas City foe for 19 points in Sparta's Hall Of Fame victory

SPARTA'S WALKER LOVELAND scores in between two Kansas City Central defenders Saturday.
SPARTA'S WALKER LOVELAND scores in between two Kansas City Central defenders Saturday.

BOLIVAR — For starters, Braylen Luttrull’s intro as a bordering breakout star for Sparta should begin with his strong penchant to be a starter.

Luttrull has ascended from anonymous to elite since receiving his first start in the Trojans’ final game of the 2023 portion of their schedule. His trend upward has continued in the new year.

Luttrull matched his career high by scoring 19 points Saturday in Sparta’s 53-42 triumph against Kansas City Central as part of the Missouri Sports Hall Of Fame Classic at Southwest Baptist.

Luttrull also scored 19 in the Trojans’ win versus Fordland on Jan. 2. His rise all began with a 14-point effort that included four 3-point goals against Branson at the Blue & Gold Tournament.

The Branson game saw Luttrull receive his first starting assignment 

“My confidence boosted after that,” Luttrull. “It made me feel reassured that I'm doing good and that (coach Deric Link) is letting me know I'm playing good. I’ve felt like I can shoot the ball better, get to the rim better and make smarter decisions.

“Before the season started, (Link) told me that I was better as a sixth man,” the junior guard added. “That dropped my confidence a little. I was nervous to play off the bench and wasn't shooting the ball well.”

Link has enjoyed seeing the gains Luttrull has made on and off the court.

“Braylen has grown a lot,” Link said. “We challenged him last year with character (issues) to earn his varsity jersey. This year, we said to him, 'The only one keeping you from the minutes you want to play is yourself.’ The maturity process never ends. Every single one of us has maturing to do. It never ends until you’re 'done done.'”

Link thinks all Luttrull needed after a rough start to this season was a bit of success.

“He texted me on Remind after the (season-opening) Strafford Tournament and asked me, 'Coach, am I just not a good shooter?’” Link said. "I told him, 'No, Braylen you are, you just need to see one go in.' He had one bounce in against Branson and he had kind of sigh of relief. Since then, he's shot the ball with confidence and had a big impact.”

Luttrull is legit. He wasn’t simply padding his stats against KC Central. He netted one of the biggest buckets of the game by swishing a 3-pointer after the Blue Eagles (10-5) rallied to make it a one-possession ball game in the fourth quarter. 

"He hit some timely 3s,” forward Jake Lafferty said. “When you haven't scored in a minute or two, you're getting down on yourself. But once you see that ball go in, it’s a morale boost. We never looked back after that.”

“He competes, that's what we love about him,” Link said.

Lafferty has known all along Luttrull had the moxie to assert himself in the manner he has.

“He's a dog,” Lafferty said. “In the pre-season, me and him would go at it, butting heads and talking trash to each other. He don't back down from anything. Everyone knew he had this in him. He just needed that one breakout moment and he got it in the Blue & Gold.”

“I felt like it was there. I just needed it brought out,” Luttrull said. “I'm enjoying playing with the team. I live for it.”

Lafferty hit his final four field-goal attempts to cap his customary 24-point outing. He was 10-of-15 shooting from the field, to go along with seven rebounds.

Link was pleased to see Sparta (15-3) respond to KC Central’s final challenge much better than the Trojans did Thursday in a 53-50 loss at Gainesville.

“We had a 16-point lead in the third quarter (against Gainesville) and thought we were getting ready to put them away,” Link said, “But we didn't work to put them away. We didn't continue to do the little things right and we let them sneak back into it.

“We weren't aggressive against (Kansas City Central’s) zone, not trying to attack it from the inside-out as much as I would have liked,” he added. “But we kept battling. Since the Gainesville game, we said we have to battle more and we did today.”