“Two completely different halves, the first half was not us,” Sparks coach Dan Schreiber said. “The second half, I think that’s the team we are going to see this year. It’s just taken a game and-a-half (57-40 loss to North Valleys Saturday) unfortunately.”
After getting dominated on the glass by a significantly larger Hug team in the first half -- 33 of Hug’s 38 first-half points came in the paint or on the free-throw line -- the undersized Railroaders started asserting themselves down low. Sparks outscored Hug 17-10 in the third quarter and was narrowly outscored 21-20 in the fourth.
Schreiber said at the half the team simply talked about rebounding and eliminating Hug’s second- and third-chance scoring opportunities. It worked.
Sparks senior Isaiah Campbell went ballistic in the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 23 points. Campbell sunk a pair of free throws with 2:09 remaining to close the once 24-point gap, to nine. However, that was as close as the Railroaders could get as Hug closed the game on a 9-3 run.
“He (Campbell) played much better (in the second half),” Schreiber said. “I think it’s just night and day, first half and second half.”
Despite Hug’s game-sealing run in the waning minutes, highlighted by Jeremiah Williams’ (team-high 15 points) breakaway flush, Schreiber was more than pleased with his team’s second-half showing.
“To play the division champs last year, Hug, in their gym and take it to nine with about three minutes to go, it could have went either way, to us that’s a win,” Schreiber said. “I know the scoreboard didn’t indicate that but I think we can springboard from that and keep climbing that ladder.”
Mathew Ottoboni came off the bench and finished with the Railroader’s second-highest scoring output (eight points).
Outside of Williams, Hug had four other players finish in double digits: Octavian Corley (14 points), Sir Fredrick Tatum (12 points), Zonathan Williams (11 points) and Devin Porter (10 points).
Corley, a 6-foot-8-inch junior, threw down Hug’s first dunk of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter but was given a technical foul for hanging on the rim, sending the Hug faithful into a frenzy. Corley’s flush put Hug up 50-33 before Campbell scored 12 of Sparks’ next 18 points to shrink the deficit to nine.
Hug improved to 1-1 with the win after falling 55-53 to Incline Saturday. Sparks fell to 0-2 and will play West Wendover and Damonte Ranch next Wednesday in the Rail City Classic before playing Wooster the following day in the same tournament.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s good (playing big schools) because these better teams exploit our weaknesses,” Schreiber said. “So we what know what we need to work on in practice to be better when we get late into February.”