The 5-foot-8 point guard scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the first half and led the Mustangs to a 65-49 victory in Saturday’s championship game of the 34th annual Capital Classic at Carson High.
“He’s difficult to stop. I told the kids we won’t face a tougher guard this year,” Sparks co-head coach Mike Jones said of Nuthall. “He’s everything they say he is. I didn’t give him enough respect to start the game. I knew he could shoot a little bit, but he didn’t miss in the first half. He did everything for them.”
Nuthall lit it up from behind the arc, draining three deep 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. The speedy southpaw also initiated several fast breaks that ended with him assisting a teammate for a layup.
Nuthall’s assist to John Carlson in transition put the Mustangs up by a first-quarter high margin of eight points, 17-9, with just under a minute left in the period.
A Darius Devine putback with 37 seconds remaining before the horn cut the deficit back down to six, 17-11.
Sparks then scored the first basket of the second quarter to creep back into contention thanks to Henry Banks’ bucket down low in the paint, making it a 17-13 game.
However, the Railroaders couldn’t get any closer in the first half.
A Nuthall 3-pointer pushed the gap to 22-15 with 4:36 to go before the break. Michael Holmes’ free throws 20 seconds later left the scoreboard reading 24-15 in favor of the Mustangs. That was the largest lead of the first half.
The margin was nine points on four different occasions in the second quarter, including 30-21 with 47 seconds remaining in the half.
The Maroon and Gold chipped away right before halftime thanks to an Xavier Rodriguez three-point play, sending Sparks into the locker room trailing 30-24.
Sparks made a game of it in the third quarter when it used a 9-2 run to get to within one. Sparks had a chance to go ahead for the first time since it was 2-0, but Brian Morgan’s shot attempt clanked off the rim.
Morgan made his next attempt, answering Carlson’s basket for a 38-37 score in favor of the Mustangs.
Damonte turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, but again Sparks came up empty-handed when it had a chance to steal the lead away with a minute to play in the third.
Nuthall knocked down the fifth of his six treys and initiated a 10-0 spurt that spanned the end of the third quarter and the first 48 seconds of the fourth. That run increased the advantage to double digits for the first time in the game, 48-37.
Once Damonte grabbed a 50-39 edge, the margin never dipped into the single digit’s again.
Mustang big man Jeff Turk made sure of it by scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter. He had 21 in the game. Turk scored six points during an 8-0 run that gave Damonte a game-high 62-44 lead.
The Mustangs outscored the Railroaders 24-7 during the key eight-minute span.
“They were getting multiple shots. They won the battle of the boards,” Jones said. “They controlled the tempo. We worked really hard to get back in it, but I think they wore us down. They started to get some easy ones, and the foul situation started taking effect.”
In the losing cause, Garcia and Banks poured in 12 points apiece. Garcia and Martin Jordan were named to the all-tournament team.
Sparks (3-1) is back in action Friday when it heads to Reed for a non-league matchup at 7 p.m.
Reed 49, Wooster 35
•In the seventh-place game of the Carson tournament, Reed thumped Wooster 49-35 to capture its first win of the young season.
Reed helped its cause by jumping out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter. From there, Wooster was never really able to cut into the Raiders’ lead.
Reed led 28-14 at halftime and 39-23 after three quarters. After falling behind early, Wooster (0-4) failed to ever cut Reed’s lead to single digits.
“We played much better today,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “We played pretty well defensively. We kind of knew that they had some kids capable of getting hot, so we definitely made a point to pay extra attention to a few of their guards. We made them work on the perimeter and our guys did a good job containing them outside.”
Dylan Raatz scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Reed on his way to earning all-tournament status. Kyle Ross also chipped in 10 points for the Raiders (1-3, 0-1).
Reed is in action again Tuesday when it returns to league play for a Northern 4A crossover league game against Carson. The conference clash will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at Reed.