His Railroaders (1-5, 1-1 in league meetings) picked up their first win of the season, 51-38. Dayton played just its second game of the season and fell to 0-2.
“This is only one win but it’s a good one,” Avilla said. “It’s our first win in a couple years, I mean a true win, in our league … It’s just a good victory.”
Sparks led 13-11 early in the second quarter after a Senifa Po’oi free throw but trailed 19-15 at the half. The deficit ballooned to 28-20 midway through the third quarter before the Railroaders played their best basketball in recent memory.
Maricar Diaz (six points) got her defender to leave her feet with a pump fake, on Sparks' ensuing possession, and hit a four-footer to spark an 8-0 run. Jocelyn Vasquez (nine points) scored the final six points of the spurt to tie the game at 28.
Gabby Hernandez, who had a team-high 13 points, hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to put Sparks up 33-30 and the Railroaders never trailed again.
Leading 36-33 in the fourth, Hernandez hit her second 3-pointer and the Railroaders closed the game on a 15-5 run to secure the league win.
“After 0-5, 1-5 is good. But what is (really) good, is we played basketball tonight,” Avilla said. “We were down at halftime and I just challenged the girls. ‘You’re showing signs of greatness out there.’ They were in the passing lanes (defensively). They are starting to learn basketball.”
Deservedly giddy after the game, Avilla was ecstatic but spoke to the sentiment that the work of rebuilding a program does not conclude with a league win in December.
Christi Ricci lead the Dust Devils with 13 points.
Sarah Hanson chipped in eight points for Sparks as one of seven Railroaders to land on the stat sheet.
“Seven athletes scored tonight. You look back at Sparks over the last five, six, years and that hasn’t happened,” Avilla said. “They are starting to believe in their offense. They are starting to learn defense.”
Sparks doesn’t get to ride the roller coaster of its first win for long as it hosts North Valleys at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It will be the Railroaders' fourth game of the season against a Div. I opponent.
Avilla’s squad will then take a nearly two-week break before jumping back into DI-A North action at Lowry Jan. 3.