On Saturday, Sparks (6-2) turned into happy hosts of the eight-team tourney. The Railroaders capped a three-day run through the tournament with a 51-36 championship game victory over Casa Roble of east suburban Sacramento.
“This is the first time we’ve won it. It’s pretty fun with your own crowd behind you,” Sparks senior Erik Garcia said after the win.
Sparks posted the victory thanks in large part to dominating the fourth quarter. The tourney foes went into the fourth quarter deadlocked at 31 apiece. Things fell apart from there for Casa Roble.
Sparks put the game away with a 14-0 run to open the quarter. Casa Roble did not score through the first five-plus minutes of the period. Railroaders junior DJ Devine was the catalyst of the key spurt, scoring six points in the run.
“In the second half we made an adjustment,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “They were doubling off our first pass. Our short corner was dropping low. So we dropped that out wide and had a guard cut through. That took the pressure off and we got easy baskets. That little subtle change really helped us.
Casa Roble’s Nick Bruce put an end to the run with a driving layup. Unfortunately for the California club, it trailed 45-33 with 2:42 remaining in the contest. The visiting Rams could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
“We lost our patience,” Casa Roble coach Bel Lange said. “Instead of talking and moving the ball, we’d get one pass and one shot. In our offense, we stopped moving people. We got stagnant and got stuck on a number. Sparks did a great job. They moved the ball and did what we wanted to do. Give them credit. They earned it.”
Casa Roble (5-3) did get off to a good start. A free throw from Taylor Whedon at the 4:17 mark of the first period gave the Rams an early 8-1 advantage.
The Sparks offense struggled early. The Railroaders could not manage a field goal until Brian Morgan dropped in a bucket with 3:50 showing on the first-quarter clock. That basket got the SHS crew going and it clawed its way back to within three, 13-10, after the first eight minutes.
Casa Roble led by four, 20-16 after Bruce banked in a 3-pointer with 3:47 left before halftime, but Sparks rallied from there, posting eight of the last 10 points before the intermission en route to grabbing a 24-22 lead at the break.
Casa Roble won the third quarter 9-7 to account for the 31-31 tie after three periods of play.
Sparks got a balanced scoring effort as a trio of Railroaders hit for double digits in the scoring column. Devine and Xavier Rodriguez both finished the game with 11 points while Garcia chipped in 10.
“We took our time on offense,” Garcia said. “Coach was getting on us to let things develop, to find the open gaps and then attack. That’s what we did.”
Bruce finished with 10 points but was the lone Rams player to score in double figures.
Sparks returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Portola, Calif. at 7 p.m.