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Basketball: Sparstad's hot hand sparks Hudson Raiders at ECM

Things didn't look good for the Raider boys' basketball team in the first quarter of its game at Eau Claire Memorial last Friday night, Jan. 4.

The Raiders turned the ball over nine times in the first eight minutes while falling behind 10-2 to the Old Abes. That's when freshman Mathew Sparstad came off the bench and lit a fire under his teammates by drilling four straight three-pointers in the second quarter to help Hudson score a 53-46 Big Rivers Conference victory.

Raider coach Jason Swavely said Sparstad's hot hand was just what the team needed.

"We looked horrible in the first quarter," Swavely said. "In the second quarter we started playing better defense and got into a rhythm offensively and Matt hit a couple of threes to get us going. It was definitely a spark."

Hudson had cut the Old Abe deficit to 11-8 when Sparstad hit his first three-pointer to tie the game. He went on to hit three more from long range and drilled another jumper just before halftime to help the Raiders take a 26-20 lead.

Hudson extended its lead to eight points early in the third quarter before Memorial came back to take a short-lived 33-32 lead.

Alex Newell's three-pointer at the end of the quarter gave Hudson a 37-33 lead and Alex Herink opened the fourth quarter with a bucket to make it a nine-point game, 39-33.

The Raider lead ballooned to ten, 47-37, when Herink fouled out around the one-minute mark.

"All of a sudden they cut it to five with Alex out, but we hit some big free throws down the stretch," Swavely said. "We answered every time they made a run."

Sparstad finished with 16 points to lead all scorers while Herink contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds. Dan Kelly chipped in nine points and Newell and Stef Smith scored five each while Miles Lewis added four.

"We needed a win like that; kind of a grind it out win," Swavely said. "We got one against Wausau East; that was a much-needed victory, then to go on the road at Eau Claire Memorial and get another one is nice."

Swavely said the return of guard Joe Kelly from injury has also provided a boost to the team.

"It's nice having Joe Kelly back on the floor, from a leadership standpoint, and he understands the offense and is a good defensive player," the coach said. "It helps the cause."

The Raiders, now 3-7 overall, 1-3 in BRC play, hosted Chippewa Falls (0-12, 0-4) this past Tuesday and will make the short trip to River Falls (6-1, 3-1) Friday, Jan. 11, for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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