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GIRLS BASKETBALL: SPARTA 40, G-E-T 30

WATCH NOW: High school basketball: Sparta girls beat G-E-T in defensive battle

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SPARTA, Wis. -- Just three games into her Sparta High School girls basketball coaching career, former G-E-T standout Samantha Weaver was on the other side of the bench from her alma mater as the Red Hawks traveled to face the Spartans in a nonconference matchup on Monday.

While Weaver says it’s been long enough since graduation in 2009 that she was not too emotional about facing her old school, she could not help but enjoy a visit from an old mentor.

“It’s pretty cool to see my middle school basketball coach over there, Jim Scherr’s been with it for years,” Weaver said.

Weaver and the Spartans made the most of the quasi-homecoming, beating G-E-T 40-30 in a defensive standoff.

The Spartans hit a pair of shots in the first minute-and-a-half for a quick 4-0 lead, but the scoring slowed down from there as both teams settled into their defensive rhythms.

Nearly every trip down the court ended in a turnover or a jump ball, with occasional missed shots in traffic sprinkled in for good measure. Each team would eventually make a shot, and Sparta had built up an 11-4 lead by the 11-minute, 26-second mark.

G-E-T was able to chip away at that deficit over the next seven minutes, cutting the score to 11-10 when senior guard Lindsey Lettner stole the ball and went coast to coast for a layup at 4:04.

The Red Hawks played solid, pesky defense all night, but in that stretch specifically, it was particularly effective.

“We turned them over a lot, we made them do a lot of things that I don’t think they wanted to do,” G-E-T coach Louis Hurd said.

Both teams traded buckets in the final minutes before halftime, though G-E-T never took the lead and Sparta went into the break ahead 17-14.

After halftime, Sparta came out firing, hitting 3-pointers on each of their first two possessions of the second. Junior Abby Schell hit the first from the left side, and senior Nadia Laufenburg the second from the right side to put the Spartans up 23-14 and set the tone for the rest of the game.

Sparta continued its run over the next few minutes, and at 13:11 it led 30-16, nearly matching its first-half scoring total in five minutes.

In the remainder of the game, G-E-T outscored the Spartans 14-10, but it was too late to mount a formidable comeback.

Senior forward Kayli Bratberg led the Red Hawks with 11 points, while Lettner added eight.

Sparta’s top scorer -- Schell -- also had 11 points. Senior guard Mallory Russ scored nine, and sophomore Evelyn Tripp added eight.

Hurd felt that once his team fell behind by double digits, the pressure started to mount and made his players a bit too skittish to mount the comeback they needed.

“I think we played very scared at the end. A lot of our turnovers were hasty, girls not necessarily wanting the ball in their hands,” Hurd said. “We have to overcome our fears when it’s crunch time and the stakes are very high.”

For Weaver, she was proud of the Spartans’ defensive play, holding their foes to just 30 points. She says that an up-tempo defense is something the team always will hang its hat on, but she also admits that the team needs to learn to reign itself in and not rush things too much on the offensive end as well.

“It’s a tough balance. I want them to be all-out at all times, but sometimes we don’t have to be,” Weaver said.

Andrew Tucker can be reached at andrew.tucker@lee.net or via Twitter @andrewjtucker16

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