Winchester’s Golden Falcons utilized a sizzling nine of 13 shooting in the first quarter, grabbing a 21-13 lead at the first stop, then had to hold off the pesky Mon-roe Central Bears to win the opener of the Randolph County Tourney Wednesday night 56-49 at Monroe Central. In a highly competitive and contested game between two squads with similar statistics, Winchester’s 6’10’ Payton Sparks was the difference. Sparks totaled 27 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, sending the Fal-cons past the Bears for the fourth succes-sive time in. two years. All four games were close encounters, where a call or a bounce, here or there, might have made for a differ-ent outcome. The impressive part of Sparks’ game was not his scoring or rebounding, but his passing to get Winchester started. Af-ter taking a pass in the middle of the lane, Sparks swung the ball to the perimeter to Brooks Burelison for the game-opening trey. Jackson Ullom, Monroe Central’s shifty junior guard answered, feeding se-nior Caden Shumaker for a three-pointer from the top of the key. Winchester followed with a 9-0 spurt to take a 12-3 lead, forcing Monroe Cen-tral Coach Justin Ullom to call a timeout at the 5;08 mark of the first period. Sparks scored the first seven points of the run. He ignited the rally with a three-point play, hit a fielder, then stole the ball and finished with a flush. Wayde Sickels scored the final hoop of the run. After the Bear timeout, Gavin Smith-son-Burciaga scored in the paint to halt the Winchester spurt. Wayde Sickels respond-ed with a three-pointer off a feed from his brother, Dane, giving Winchester its first 10 point lead. A Jackson Ullom steal and lay in made it 15-7. The two teams traded field goals to the end of the first stanza. The Falcon margin reached 11 at 27-16 in the second period on a Gage Patterson basket. Monroe Central finished the half with an 11-6 run, narrowing the spread to 33-27 at intermission. Jackson Ullom be-gan the Bear assault with his second three-pointer of the period. Smithson-Burciaga added a pair of baskets, while Joey Ullom connected for a deuce. Meanwhile, Sparks scored all six points for Winchester. His last two tallies may have been the biggest. With 1.7 seconds remaining in the half, Sparks rebound-ed a Wayde Sickels’ miss, put the ball off the glass for the hoop and was fouled by Smithson-Burciaga, the third foul on Monroe Central’s best inside presence. Winchester led at the break 37-31. The Bears again narrowed the Falcon advantage to four points, 35-31, on a Jack-son Ullom hoop. The Falcons’ response, seven successive points, the last three on a Dane Sickels’ shot from the left baseline. Monroe Central again finished the third frame strong, outscoring Winchester 7-2. Two Cooper McCoy freebies gave the Fal-cons a 44-34 advantage.But baskets by Joel Kennedy and Jackson Ullom brought the Bears back to 44-38 at the end of the period. Scoring eight of the first ten points of the final period, Winchester grabbed its larg-est lead of the game, 52-40. The last two points came on a nifty wrap-around pass from Burelison to McCoy for the lay up. The Bears went to work. Jackson Ul-lom connected for a three-point play. Luke Jones converted on two foul shots from the charity stripe. When Smithson-Bur-ciaga canned a 12-foot floater in the lane, Monroe Central had clawed back to 52-47, forcing Falcon Coach Dustin Baldwin to call a timeout with 2:52 remaining. The ensuing possession Sparks scored. Jackson Ullom hit the first shot of a one-and-one, cutting the deficit to six points. Sparks then put the nails in the coffin, making both shots of the one-and one with 19.6 ticks left. Joey Ullom’s one free throw finished the game’s scoring. The loss drops Monroe Central to 5-4 on the season. Jackson Ullom scored 22 points to lead the Bears. Smithson-Burci-aga and Joey Ullom finished with 10 tallies each. Joey Ullom, Cole Munchel, and Ken-nedy snared four rebounds each. Winchester won for the sixth straight time, after opening with two close losses. The Falcons will play Randolph Southern Thursday night in Lynn. Wayde Sickels with 11 points joined Sparks in double digits. He and Patterson corralled five caroms apiece.
Winchester. 21 33 44 56
Monroe Central. 13 27 38 49
FALCONS--W. Sickels 5 0-1 11, McCoy 1 2-2 4, Burelison 2 0-1 5, D. Sickels 2 0-0 5, Welch 0 0-0 0, Patterson 2 0-0 4, Sparks 11 5-8 27. Totals 23 7-12 56. BEARS--Jo. Ullom 4 2-4 10, Jones 0 2-2 2, Ja. Ullom 9 2-3 22, Shumaker 1 0-0 3, Smithson-Burciaga 5 0-0 10, L. Patterson 0 0-0 0, Munchel 0 0-0 0, Kennedy 1 0-1 2. Totals 20 6-10 49.