Hug’s all-league center will provide mismatches all year and he showed why from the start, knocking down back-to-back threes to score the first six points of the game.
Sparks hung early with one of the favorites to win the Division I North’s High Desert League, but the second quarter saw the Railroaders’ engine stall on offense, giving Hug enough separation to claim a 72-49 non-league victory at the Brickhouse.
Sparks closed the gap to 14-8 with 31 seconds to go in the first quarter on Bobby Brown’s third basket of the game. That’s how the score remained heading into the second quarter.
The Railroaders scored almost immediately in the second period, closing the margin to four, 14-10, on a bucket down low by Mike Albior.
Following a pair of free throws by the Hawks, Keiffer Putman swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 6:41 mark of the second quarter. That made it a 16-13 Hawks edge. However, Sparks didn’t look the same after that.
“We talked a lot about playing until the three or four-minute mark, staying close so we could strike, knowing that their shooting legs would be gone and their legs to run would be gone so we could make our run,” Sparks boys basketball coach Dan Schreiber said. “We looked at that like this is our moment and we didn’t capitalize. We’re going to play better teams throughout the year. We have to play our game plan. We know what we want to do when and where. We got there, and now we have to finish.”
Hug outscored Sparks 16-4 over the final 5:41 of the first half. The Hawks went up by double digits, 26-15, on two free throws by Rian Narra with 3:31 to go before halftime.
Back-to-back buckets by Felix Cox closed out the first half's scoring, leaving the visitors in a 30-17 lead after one half of action.
For a non-league game during a Saturday of Thanksgiving break, the atmosphere was electric at SHS.
Unfortunately for the Maroon and Gold, that didn’t translate to enough sustained momentum in the second half to complete a comeback.
Williams scored the first four points of the second half on a free throw and 3-pointer, extending Hug’s edge to 34-17.
The Hawks increased their cushion to as much as 18 when Williams converted a three-point play three minutes into the third quarter to make it a 41-23 score.
Williams’ 10th point of the third quarter increased the margin to 46-31, but Hug didn’t score during the last 1:35 of the third quarter.
The Railroaders cut the deficit down to 10 on a Brown follow of his own miss and a Geo Vasquez trey that hit nothing but net for a 46-36 score at the end of the third.
But it was all Hawks to start the final eight minutes as they scored the first six points of the fourth quarter.
Brown stopped the Hug run with a pair of free throws, but the Hawks continued their spurt by holding the hosts with a basket from the field for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Jeremiah Williams pushed Hug ahead to what was a game-high 19-point lead to that point, 57-38, with 6:02 to play in the game.
Midway through the fourth quarter, DJ Devine ended Sparks’ shooting drought from the field. He followed his bucket underneath the basket with a pair of free throws to slice the deficit down to 61-42 with 3:44 to play.
But the damage had been done. Jeremiah Williams slammed down his second dunk of the quarter and Hug never led by less than 19 the rest of the way, outscoring the Railroaders 26-13 in the last quarter.
Sam Williams was the lone Hawk in double figures, leading his team with 26 points.
Brown and Campbell were the bright points for the Sparks offense, pouring in 16 and 13 points respectively.
Sparks (0-1) is off until it takes on Reed on the first day of the Capital City Classic Dec. 6.