Newaygo seeks return to the Regionals but Sparta has other ideas
By Ken De Laat
Photos by Alexis Mercer
The Spartans haven’t lost a game since a 3 point setback against Kelloggsville 5 weeks ago the day after a loss to Allendale. Their only other defeat was a 1 pointer in the season opener with Comstock Park.
And the 42-21 smothering they did to the Panthers Wednesday gives you an idea of how this team has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, notching 10 wins in a row as they enter the District Final game with Newaygo.
And likely some of the Spartans recall last year when the Lions defense slammed the door on Armock and co. with a 49-30 win.
But that was last year.
Cowdrey, Vallone, and Peot along with Armock can all score in bunches and Sparta has some bangers in the paint. It will be a physical game but the Lions have been in their share of physical games and won’t be outmuscled with Goodin, Fisk, Ruehmeier doing time down under.
Jaylee Long has been masterful during her senior season providing leadership and a mental toughness on the court. Brummel has added another 3 point weapon to the arsenal and Jaxi Long wants the ball when the games on the line.Swinehart and Painter coming off the bench gives them depth they have needed when players get into trouble early.
This one looks to be close. Two teams with quickness and two teams loaded with scrappers.
The Spartans avenged their earlier losses to K-ville and Park and a win would salve some wounds from last season. They have a good deal of confidence going into this one with those 10 wins behind them, although the only team with a winning record in that span was Park.
The Lions are great fun to watch. Their defense is intimidating and while they are known to make a few mistakes along the way, they don’t make many. Goodin got in foul trouble Wednesday and that might be a concern. After watching some 7-8 Girls and Boys tourney games this week I can safely say the refereeing, while not in any way biased, seems to lack consistency, particularly when it comes to offensive fouls being called in the paint. (Just ask Fremont's Braiden McDonald)
Tonight we're hoping they 'let 'em play'.
With the Regionals set for Fremont next week the winner of this one moves on to take on the survivor of an old rivalry as Whitehall faces Montague in Spring Lake.
Sparta is hungry to reach the Regionals. The last time the school got there was 2016 and that team won the district on the home court this year’s version will be playing on.
But the Lions are eager for a return after last year’s magic carpet ride ended, not at the hands of another team but by the pandemic. During that run they proved they belonged with the region’s best teams.
And tonight they get a chance to punch that return ticket.