The Pope John Lions girls basketball team has always struggled against a unusually very good Sparta Spartan girls basketball team. However, on January 10th, the Lions dominated the Spartans by winning by 25 points after the Spartans failed to counter the strong offensive pressure from the Lions.
Before the game even started, the Spartans were missing a key piece of their lineup. Spartan Senior Brynn McCurry was out with an injury, but the Spartans weren’t a team to be messed with, nonetheless. The Lions also weren’t a team to be messed with, and they showed that home court advantage would lead to the blowout win.
Behind their student section, the Lions jumped to a 19-8 lead as the 1st quarter ended. However, the Spartans wouldn’t quit easily as they fought the Lions to a 18-15, 2nd quarter in favor of the Lions. At halftime, the Lions led 37-23. The 1st half was controlled by the Lions, but it could easily slip away if not carefully protected.
By the end of the game, four players on the Lions team would score over 10 points. Senior Kylie Squier was able to find her groove to hit three, 3-pointers during the game while Junior Madison Miller and Freshman Addy Platt had a combined 32 points and 27 rebounds by the end of the game. Squier knows that beating the Spartans helps boost the team’s confidence as they continue to dominate their opponents.
“Beating Sparta [the Spartans] boosts our confidence even more,” said Squier. “I think we have a good shot at winnng HWS [Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex] and even states with wins like this.”
The 3rd quarter was similar to the second quarter as the Spartans fought to play even with the Lions. By the end of the quarter, the Lions were still leading by 15 points, 51-36, but Lions Head Coach Kevin Houston knew that they could not give in to a final surge from the Spartans.
“The girls work extremely hard at practice, so the team is able to not give in to our opponents when they have a lead like they did against Sparta [the Spartans],” said Coach Houston. “It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about the process. Our girls understand that you either win or you learn. They’re not afraid to lose because I keep telling them it’s a learning experience if they lose.”
The Lions dominated the fourth quarter, and it was their best quarter of the game. Scoring 19 points and allowing 9 points, the Lions won 70-45, pulling away to give the students something to cheer about. The 45 points allowed by the Lions continued to show how well the defense has played this season for the team. With a total 12 steals and 7 blocks, the Lions showed that they could play good basketball on both sides of the ball.
It was an amazing win for the team because it had been 3 years since the Lions had beaten the Spartans on the court for the girls, so Squier and Senior Maddie Rento were extremely happy to take down a big time rival.
“It was awesome to beat them since we hadn’t beaten them since my freshman year,” said Squier. “In future games against them, I want to see the team feed off each other’s energy and the crowd’s energy, so that we can dominate them every time.”
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.