For the ninth straight year, the Sparks Middle School and Dilworth STEM Academy’s eighth grade team ‘A’ and ‘B’ team’s wrapped up their seasons in the SHS Brickhouse. Sparks Middle School and Dilworth are two of Sparks High’s feeder schools.
The game was played in front of nearly packed stands, cheerleaders and the Sparks High band.
“It’s to show the incoming freshman that we got something going on here at Sparks High School,” said Greg Shugar, Sparks High’s registrar and the event organizer. “Our band is here, our cheerleaders are here, ROTC is here at the beginning and it kind of coincides with, we just met about next year so it’s at the right time.”
Stats and records are rarely kept in middle school athletics but for the second straight year, a trophy was on the line – the Principal’s Trophy. Sparks Middle School won the ‘A’ game, 44-31. Sparks’ Carlos Rodriguez led all scorers with 14 points.
“The actual atmosphere (at a normal game) is not like that kind of energy,” Sparks coach Ben Tucker said.
Tucker stepped into the coaching role after Regina Mann, the regular coach, missed the game visiting Washington DC.
“It’s a really good opportunity, especially for the kids who are looking to play at the next level to get an idea what it feels like,” Tucker said. “Sparks does this every year and they’re really awesome to us.”
Second-year Dilworth coach Chris Cook said the game goes far beyond the scoreboard.
“The thing that is fun about this, a lot of these kids end up at this high school so it’s a way to promote their high school career and give them a taste of what it will be like,” Cook said. “So it gets them excited about high school and helps build them a bridge of what to expect and gets them an idea of why they need to have good grades and why they need to be excited about high school.
“If we can make them excited about something like a sport, or a club, or some sort of after-school activity, well, they have a reason to get up in the morning other than just going to school. If we can do that, they have a better chance at success.”
While Shugar essentially echoed Cook’s statement about the purpose of the game, Cook could not deny the game was important from a basketball standpoint.
“Absolutely, this is a little bit of our Super Bowl,” he said. “It was for our ‘A’ team this year, absolutely. We didn’t have a great season but we try to make this our big event for our boys and they played their hearts out. Unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”
Despite falling in the ‘A’ game, Dilworth brought the Principal’s Trophy home with them after the ‘B’ team won, 31-21, and Omar Ramos won the tie-breaking shootout in the third round.
“You know, middle school basketball, they don’t get much love and it’s a short season and short quarters,” Shugar said. “This way they can see, ‘hey, this is what it can be in high school.’ So I’m really pleased, we always get a great turnout.”