Sixth player makes difference

At six o’clock, two girls jump for a ball; one in blue and one in white. The team looked to the crowd, which was ever growing, for support, and they received it, and ended up taking the win 46-34.

“Hats off to the kids that came out here on a school night,” Assistant Coach Ron Jones said. “The cheering fans and the girls on the team really helped us.”

For the next 32 minutes, the Spartans fought to be sectional champions while the crowd fought to encourage the girls; the team passed, dribbled and shot, while the crowd chanted, shouted and cheered; the girls celebrated in the locker room, while the fans applauded the team and coach.

“Knowing that we help the team means we aren’t cheering for nothing,” senior Dean Ballenger said. “They appreciate it, and they draw power from it.”

While the crowd shouted cheers of pride, the fellow team members on the bench shouted helpful tactics and plays.

“While I was on the bench, I encouraged them to work hard and focus,” senior Casey Scherr said. “It really makes us win.”

Only one team could be victorious, and from the start of the game, the Spartans had the lead.

“I knew they were capable of winning if we played well, we’d win,” Head Coach Brian Ricker said. “I told them to believe they would win from the moment they took a step onto that court.”

During the game, senior Sharese Jones scored a total of 25 points, making her the leading scorer of the night.

“I threw a bunch of three-pointers, and I think that really boosts the team and gets them hyped, plus it really hurts the other team,” Jones said.

The second leading contributor to points was junior Grace Wade, who scored 10 points. Not only did she make baskets, but she played some defensive plays that kept the Hawk’s score from reaching theirs.

“It feels good to know I contributed to what could be our last game,” Wade said. “We have the chance to play [Fort Zumwalt West,] and we can win if we clean up our mistakes.”

This Saturday, the Spartans will be playing Fort Zumwalt West – who the Lady Spartans lost to 49-46 on Feb. 10 – in the quarterfinals at UMSL at 1 p.m., but this isn’t just any game, according to Activities Director Scott Harris.

“[This will be] the first basketball team to advance to the State Final Four in Howell Central history,” Harris said.