The Railroaders built a 32-17 halftime lead over Rite of Passage in a semifinal matchup of their tournament and advanced to today’s championship with a 67-43 triumph.
“I think we kept our composure well. I talked before the game about how we wanted to keep that full-court pressure on them and wear them out,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “The four-minute mark of the fourth quarter, I kept telling them that’s where we were going to see that separation. It went from a 10-point lead to a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter. We knew they were going to keep coming. They’re good athletes.”
After ROP cut it to a 10-point game with under a minute to go in the first half, Sparks senior Erik Garcia received a diagonal pass down low for an easy bucket. Then, as time was about to expire, Brian Morgan dropped in a three-point bomb from the corner, accounting for the 15-point margin at the break.
The Rams barely were in the locker room for three minutes at halftime, but apparently that’s all they needed to come out and take a slice out of Sparks’ lead.
A 3-pointer by Isaac Scott was followed by a basket by Dae‘Shawn Patterson, and all of a sudden it was only a 10-point edge for Sparks, 34-24, with 5:36 on the third-quarter clock.
However, ROP never got it under double digits. Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez increased the lead back up to 14 on back-to-back trips down the floor with layups.
Patterson tried to keep the Rams in the game, scoring all but three of their 15 third-quarter points. The ROP big man slammed home a one-handed dunk on a fast break and later drilled a 3-pointer from the corner, leaving the Rams trailing 44-32.
A free throw by Bobby Brown handed the Railroaders a 45-32 advantage at the end of the third.
To start the fourth, Isaiah Carter drained a 3-pointer, pulling ROP to within 10. Two free throws 26 seconds later by Carter again made it a 10-point game. But that’s as close as it would get with 6:47 remaining in the game.
Sparks, relied on its motion offense to score 14 of the next 16 points and was never seriously threatened. Consecutive scores by Morgan gave the Maroon and Gold its first 20-point lead of the contest, 59-39.
“It’s just a matter of them trusting it,” Schreiber said of the motion offense. “During a timeout, I asked them to stay in ‘Irish’ for three passes. If it doesn’t work, I’d pull them out of it. It works well. It’s just a matter of teaching them because they’re new to it and I’m new. I think they really caught on to it. The light came on, and it was pretty easy to score.”
A Brown putback padded the cushion to a game-high 25 points, 65-40, with 1:16 left to play.
Garcia and Morgan paced the Railroaders’ offense with 19 and 16 points respectively.
Patterson led all scorers with 24 points in the losing cause.
Sparks (5-2) will take on Casa Roble in today’s championship game at 2:30 p.m. Casa Roble defeated Placer 55-41 in Friday night’s other semifinal.