Valentine's Day saw two of the most aggressive fourth- and fifth-grade Hoopster teams trying to romance a win to advance to the championship game. The Horned Frogs and Spartans kept the boards on fire in a back-and-forth game, until the Spartans broke the Horned Frogs' hearts with a 33-23 win.
"That was a really physical game, both ways," Spartan coach Dan Hearnen said. "We're going for the championship."
Early signs pointed to the Horned Frogs taking the game when they landed the first bucket of the game and looked to break away with an early lead. However, Spartan Sam Hearnen quickly tied it up, putting intensity into the game.
Both teams struggled to take the lead, with a handful of close misses on both sides. Horned Frog Keith Loneker quickly snapped up the lead. However it was short lived as Austin Abbott sunk a shot to even the game at four-all.
The Spartans took the lead for themselves with three minutes left, but the Horned Frogs were quick to catch back up, signaling a period of back-and-forth scoring. The two teams fought for every rebound and kept the crowd on their feet and noisy.
The early romance of the game turned a cold shoulder to the Horned Frogs by the end of the quarter. Logan Banister hit a layup, pushing the Spartans ahead by four points, which Lee McMahon followed with a free throw to close out the quarter 13-8.
The Horned Frogs fired up their offense in the second quarter, hitting a free throw in the opening minutes. The Spartans kept the train rolling however, playing a game of keep-away from the Frogs. Horned Frog Miles Stevens hit another free throw for his team and followed it up with a layup to bring the game back within a single point.
Loneker managed to capitalize on the Spartans' turnovers, taking the rock to the hoop against the full court press. Both sides kept the intensity high, exchanging the lead for the majority of the second quarter. Stevens pushed the Frogs back to a lead in the last seconds of the quarter to go into the break clutching a two-point advantage.
The third quarter saw both teams up the aggression, but neither team managed to take a commanding control of the court. The Frogs hit the first and the Spartans just couldn't pull their defense together. Horned Frog Chris Allen was tripped up, careened into the score table and had to sit the rest of the game on the bench.
The Spartans managed to keep the game sizzling, finishing out the quarter in front 27-24.
Complete domination was the name of the game in the final quarter of the game. The two goliaths were pounding the boards and stirring the fans into deafening levels of cheers and jeers. Both teams kept the ball at half court for the majority of the last eight minutes until the Spartans came to life and rolled over the Horned Frogs. A Loneker free throw was the only point the Frogs managed to score in the fourth. With the 33-25 win the Spartans advanced to the postseason championship contest where they faced the Razorbacks.
"We really got our big guys out there," Sam Hearnen said. "We dished the ball off really well and hustled."
Spartan Alex Green felt that they played a good game, but it was too early to relax and coast to the win.
"I thought we did well posting up," he said. "Yeah, we can take the champs. But, whatever team we face, they're going to be good. It's going to be great."