SPARTA, NJ - Sparta had no answer for the Pope John duo of Samba Diallo and Aaron Clarke when they hosted on Monday night. Clarke and Diallo combined for 45 points.
Sparta really missed sophomore guard Dante Joefield Monday and his ball handling. The Spartans had a tough time getting through a tight, 2-2-1 full court press on numerous occasions in the first half before settling on center Terrell Smith carrying the ball up the court.
Guard Jack Simon had a strong 21 point night. He hit five threes to keep Sparta within reach of Pope John. Nick Lucas struggled on the night, finishing with just four points.
Sparta was dealt another blow as senior forward and starter Devon McIntyre was seriously hurt. McIntyre left Sparta High School on crutches.
The Lyon's Diallo had 22 points and he could have had more. Diallo was a man amongst boys on the court Monday. Diallo's furious left-handed dunk was just the beginning for Diallo who consistently finished near the rim with both hands.
As expected with these cross town rivals, the game got chippy. Late in the game, after a tight foul on Lucas, Lucas shoved the ball into thechest of the player he fouled. That lead to pushing between the Lucas and Clarke and screaming from both benches. The battle of chants between the two school's fans, Sparta dressed in red, white and blue, added to the atmosphere of a great game.
Sparta needs a big game Tuesday from their two captains, Lucas and Simon. The season is dwindling down and as the season closes, so does the senior's high school basketball careers. Sparta needs these players to hit their shots and as a team leaders, the game is always on their shoulders. As a leader, Lucas needs his defense to lead to offense, as it did earlier in the season; his rebounds and steals leading to Spartan points.
Sparta has to close the book on their third straight loss quickly as they are back in action Tuesday night at home against Morris Knolls. After an emotional game, Tuesday's game is just what the doctor ordered for the Spartans.