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  • Last year's SHS girls basketball team with Coach Catherine Wille. Last year the team was 17-9. Many varsity veterans are returning for this season.



By Josh Lashley

— The same intensity and focus that they displayed in pre-season practices and scrimmages is very likely to continue now that the regular season has gotten underway and that’s good news for the Sparta High School basketball programs, both girls and boys teams.

After finishing with a solid overall record of 17-9 and advancing to quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA North 1 Group 3 Sectional Tournament last year, Sparta girl’s head basketball coach Catherine Wille welcomes back a group of varsity tested student-athletes including Erin Walsh (senior), Paige Smith (senior), Tatiana Esteva-Ingram (senior), Erin Scott (senior), Brianna Falco (junior) and Emily Dilger (junior).

Newcomers looking to make their presence known on the varsity roster include Ireland Cofrancesco (junior), Alisa Williamson (sophomore), Ellen Villapando (sophomore), Delaney Forziati (sophomore) and Liz Bouma-Hannam (sophomore).

“Paige Smith, Erin Walsh, Erin Scott and Tatiana Esteva-Ingram [will be looked upon as leaders],’’ Wille said. “These are my four senior captains and they lead by example on and off the floor. They are skilled, experienced and verbal.’’

The Spartans compete in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) American Division with Pope John, Jefferson, Morris Hills and Mount Olive.

“We will be contenders, but our Division is tough,’’ Wille said. “The teams to beat are Jefferson and Pope John.’’

Sparta has a home game versus Roxbury scheduled for January 8.

“[We want to] win our Conference, win 20 games and get to the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex finals,’’ Wille said.

SPARTA BOYS BASKETBALL:

With veteran head coach Brian Brennan leading the way, the Spartans posted a fine record of 15-10 during the 2016-2017 season. This winter they welcome back two key players from last year’s team in Tom Ferrara (senior) and Dante Joefield (junior).

Other student-athletes who may very contribute in a big way in the varsity lineup include Jake Vreeland (senior), Zach Amirati (senior), Jack Cavanaugh (junior), Alex Podolski (junior), Cam Reily and Aidan Mastandrea (sophomore).

The Sparta boys squad also plays in the NJAC American Division along with Pope John, Mount Olive, Morris Hills and Jefferson.

They have a home game slated for January 5 versus Morris Hills.

“We will look to push the tempo and use our athleticism and length,’’ Brennan said. “Tough schedule out of the gate with games at Randolph and Morristown and then Roxbury Holiday Tourney, but will be able to compete every night.’’

NOTES: Cavanaugh led the way with 17 points as the Sparta boys team began the regular season with a 57-51 win at Randolph. Dilger posted 11 points as the Sparta girls team downed Randolph 31-21 in their season opener.

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