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ONALASKA — Onalaska High School boys basketball coach Craig Kowal worked hard from the sideline to motivate his team Friday night.

The Hilltoppers needed that while trying to stay on their feet while absorbing punch after punch from Sparta as the teams battled over first place in the MVC.

A strong end to the second half gave Onalaska the necessary separation, and it shot the ball well enough the rest of the way to hold off the Spartans 76-61 in a game played before an estimated crowd of 800 people at Charles Deeth Fieldhouse.

“They went off early, and we responded, fortunately,” Kowal said after his team improved to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in the MVC. “I’m giving all of the credit to Sparta.

“I think we were outplayed in almost every facet of the game, and we won because we had a few talented basketball players.”

Jan. 4: Sparta vs. Onalaska

Onalaska High School’s Tyrell Stuttley shoots from the lane during Friday’s MVC game against Sparta at Onalaska High School. The Hilltoppers used a strong second half to defeat Sparta 76-61.

Junior Carson Arenz scored a game-high 26 points, and junior teammate Tyrell Stuttley added 20 in a game that Sparta (9-3, 2-1) led by as many as 10 points in the first half.

The Hilltoppers lead second-place Central (8-1, 2-0) by a half-game — those teams meet for the first time on Jan. 11 — and rallied from that deficit by scoring 16 of the last 17 first-half points.

The Spartans had success in the lane early before being pushed back to the 3-point line as Onalaska pulled away. But Sparta connected enough from long distance to stop the game from turning ugly.

The first-half run started after Sparta took a 28-18 lead on a basket by Bryce Edwards. Arenz and sophomore Sam Kick each scored five points during the run that turned into a 37-29 halftime lead.

Stuttley’s dunk off an assist by Dakota Mannel with 1 minute, 59 seconds on the clock put Onalaska ahead 30-28, and it kept the lead the rest of the game.

Jan. 4: Sparta vs. Onalaska

Onalaska’s Jonathan Flanagan looks to pass as Sparta’s Raymond Brown (left) and Nick Church pressure him during Friday’s MVC game at Onalaska High School.

“It would have been a lot tougher (to win) if we didn’t have that run,” said Arenz, who made two 3-pointers and scored 14 of his points in the second half. “It was good for us because they started out so well.”

The Spartans got to the basket successfully and mixed in some outside shooting to take control early. The Hilltoppers led 8-2 before Sparta came back with 11 straight points before Mannel connected on a 3-pointer with 10:42 left in the half.

Edwards and Jaden Raymer rewarded good ball movement with baskets in the paint, and Edwards and Nick Church each hit a first-half 3-pointer.

Edwards and Ivan Sanchez scored 14 points to lead Sparta, which had a five-game winning streak snapped. Church added 12.

“They have a couple of good penetrators in Church and Raymer, and we didn’t do a good job of keeping them out of the lane,” Kowal said. “Despite our size, they kept getting in there and came right at us.

“Eventually, we pushed them out a little bit, but I’m still very disappointed in our defense throughout the game.”

Jan. 4: Sparta vs. Onalaska

Onalaska’s Victor Desmond drives against Sparta’s Bryce Edwards during Friday’s game at Onalaska High School.

The focus turned to the perimeter in the second half, and Sparta stayed in the game with 3-pointers. The Spartans made four of them after halftime, but Onalaska’s hot shooting countered them.

The Hilltoppers made seven straight shots at one point, and they led by as many as 15 points. Sanchez followed a basket with two free throws to get the Spartans within 68-61 with 4:27 left, but they were shut out the rest of the way.

“We have a lot to clean up to be where we want to be,” Kowal said. “But tonight, that’s a compliment to Sparta and what they were able to do against us.”

MVC BOYS

Team Ovr. W-L Conf. W-L
Onalaska 9-1 3-0
Central 8-1 2-0
Sparta 9-3 2-1
Holmen 5-5 2-1
Aquinas 3-7 0-1
Tomah 2-6 0-2
Logan 3-7 0-4

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Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at Todd.Sommerfeldt@lee.net or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX

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