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Tournament championship eludes Lady Trojans for second time in two weeks

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With Blue Eye winning the Sparta Tournament championship Saturday, Sparta coach Josh Loveland feels it’s no secret that the Lady Bulldogs are the favorites to win the SWCL title.

Sparta won last year’s SWCL championship, breezing through conference play undefeated. But Blue Eye got the best of the Lady Trojans, 53-38, in Saturday’s tourney final.

“They are definitely the team to beat,” Loveland said. “Blue Eye is in control of the conference race. But we’ve got a shot at them. We got them last year. But this year we’ve got to go to Blue Eye. That will be tough, it would tough to beat them anywhere.

“Spokane is also playing well and Crane is always tough,” he added.

Sparta beat Blue Eye 55-53 in the teams’ SWCL matchup last season, but otherwise has struggled to keep pace with Blue Eye offensively. The Lady Trojans managed just 33 points while falling by 11 to the Lady Bulldogs in last year’s Sparta Tournament title game.

Sparta was up 19-12 in the second quarter Saturday, before Blue Eye went on a 29-4 run to break away.

“We struggled to score,” Loveland said. “I thought we got some good looks early, but missed some easy ones we should have made. We had chances, but couldn’t stick them in. I kept telling the kids that ball has to go inside. In the second half, we put Shelby (McMurry) at the high post and had Megan (Brown) running the baseline down low. They found each other a few times.

“We had one possession (in the second half) in which we had cut Blue Eye’s lead to 11,” he added. “We had a chance to cut it to single digits. But we missed a 3-pointer and missed a putback. I told the kids, ‘That possession, if we could have got a basket, it might have changed everything.’ When it’s a single-digit lead, a little bit of panic might set in and there would be momentum for us. But we didn’t get it.”

Defensively, a Sparta highlight was Brown drawing two charging fouls and Aysha Fulton one.

“Megan and Aysha have both done a good job of that,” Loveland said. “We try to put them in positions defensively in matchups where they can be in help situations, get there and get their feet set for charges. Aysha has always been good at that and Megan is getting better at it.”

Sparta (10-4) has won seven of its last nine games, with the two losses coming to Blue Eye and against Miller in the Walnut Grove Tournament championship game.

“It’s hard to complain or feel sorry for yourself when you’re playing those type of teams while playing for a tournament championship,” Loveland said. “We’re not going to hang our heads after losing to Blue Eye in a championship game. I’m proud of the kids. They played hard and continued to battle. That’s what it is about, trying to get better every day.”

In the third-place game, Chadwick lost to Hartville 50-49 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Lady Cards’ Kerigan Guerin scored 22 of her 25 points in the second half.

The All-Tournament Team included McMurry, Brown, Guerin, Blue Eye’s Riley and Avery Arnold and Kyla Warren, Hartville’s McKinley Sanders and Molly Brown, Greenwood’s Hannah Gibbons and Camryn Parker and Norwood’s Cassie Chadwell.

Blue Eye 53, Sparta 38

SPARTA (38) — Fulton 1 1-2 4, A. Roller 1 0-0 3, B. Roller 1 2-2 5,  Youngmon 1 1-2 3, McMurry 4 6-7 15, Holt 1 0-0 2, Brown 2 2-3 6.

BLUE EYE (53) — A. Arnold 4 5-5 16, R. Arnold 4 2-2 14, Fairchild 2 0-0 5, Warren 5 2-2 12, Johnson 2 0-0 4, George 1 0-0 2.

Sparta    12  8   8  10 - 38

Blue Eye 10 13 20 10 - 53

3-point goals - R. Arnold 4, A. Arnold 3, McMurry, Fulton, A. Roller, B. Roller, Fairchild.

Hartville 50, Chadwick 49

CHADWICK (49) — Guerin 11 0-0 25, Little 3 2-2 8, Jackson 0 1-2 1, Nalley 2 0-0 6, Loveland 0 2-2 2, C. Burkhart 2 2-2 6, Michael 0 2-4 2, Gilbert 2 0-2 4.

HARTVILLE (50) — Sanders 8 5-9 25, Keith 1 0-0 2, Kelley 2 1-2 6, Brown 3 2-2 10, Harris 3 1-2 7.

Chadwick 11 8  17 13 - 49

Hartville    8 13 16 13 - 50

3-point goals - Sanders 4, Guerin 3, Nalley 2, Brown 2.

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