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The big pickup

Hart loses a player because of a wrongdoing, Valencia loses one to injury

Posted: January 16, 2009 11:23 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2009 5:00 a.m.

Valencia's Lauren Spargo (31) tries to shoot as Hart's Mariah Glasshoff defends Friday night.

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Hart knew before tip-off Friday night that it had lost the services of its best player.

Valencia didn’t know it was going to lose one of its best players, too – but the Vikings turned out stronger for it.

Vikings forward Starla Wright suffered an apparent concussion early in the third quarter and left the game for good, but Valencia pulled together and outplayed Hart in the second half en route to a 66-53 Foothill League victory.

“The girls really responded when Starla went down and they really came together,” said Valencia head coach Jerry Mike. “She is so important to the team and the girls absolutely love her, so to see her like that really bothered the girls, and they really did respond by coming together and playing good team basketball.”

Hart (0-18, 0-2) suffered a big loss Friday afternoon when leading scorer Amanda Corona was permanently removed from the team for falsified residency records.

The Indians had won six games with her, but all those victories have now been forfeited.

Given the circumstances, Hart head coach Zach Koebel felt his girls did all they could.

“We missed (Corona’s) point production, Koebel said. “But I’ll tell you what, being put in the situation we were in today, everybody stepped up. We played well enough to win at times, and Valencia’s a good ball club.”

Faith Anumba came in and gave Valencia instant energy off the bench in place of Wright, and Lauren Spargo went 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter and scored 10 of her 16 points in the period.

“I just knew I had to step it up because we were in a tight game,” Spargo said. “We had to come back strong from (a loss to Saugus) and win this game.”

The Vikings (14-3, 1-1) were balanced on offense in the first half, with Wright pouring in 11 points before her injury. Lindsey Hill and Jenny Lentz helped Spargo picked up the slack by combining to score 17 points in the second half.

But Mike said that the game really turned when Valencia started to dictate the tempo.

“We talked at halftime, we need to settle down,” he said. “We got into Hart’s game where they’re running and jumping and scrambling. We were playing that way and we had to calm down and just hit open shots.”

Hitting shots is exactly what Spargo and her teammates did.

“(Spargo) did great,” Mike said. “Lindsey and Jenny really did a good job getting her the ball, and Lauren hit shots. She was really calm and she came up big.”

Hart’s Briana Fitchpatrick scored 12 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to keep pressure on Valencia, while Mariah Glasshoff added 13.

The Indians, however, clearly missed Corona, who regularly set the table on offense and gave her team a dangerous scoring threat to rely on every game.

But Koebel will definitely take what he got.

“I think those girls left everything out on the floor,” Koebel said. “We were emotionally and physically exhausted and that’s all you can ask coming into league.”

Too many of Hart’s outside shots missed the mark, however, and the Vikings took advantage by executing in the second half.

They did so with inspiration.

“We had a quick talk in the huddle and just asked the girls to step up and play how Starla plays,” Mike said. “Get after it, dive on the floor, and everybody nodded their head.”

“She contributes so much to our team,” Spargo added, “and we knew we owed it to her to work hard and just pull through for her.”

jgulino@the-signal.com

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