Sparks looked ready to roll, opening the game by taking a 12-1 lead midway through the first quarter. The Railroaders' gradually built on their advantage and extended their edge to 16, 35-19, at halftime.
The second half did not go as well for the hosts. After putting up the 35 points before halftime, Sparks managed just 22 after it and was actually outscored by five points in the second two periods.
"We had a real nice first half and worked on a lot of things we needed to," Sparks coach Mike Jones said. "I thought the kids performed. And then we had a little mental letdown in the second half. We were reaching and lunging for steals and it showed because we couldn't get stops and defend in our schemes."
After trailing by the 16 points at halftime, Whittell scratched its way back into contention. The Warriors had cut the Railroaders' lead to 10 by the end of the third quarter, 47-37.
The Lake school kept coming. An Alex Vogt runner helped Whittell trim the Sparks lead to six, 48-42, at the 5:10 mark of the fourth quarter. That's as close as the Warriors had been since the first quarter, but that's as good as it got for the guests. They could get no closer the rest of the way.
Sparks outscored Whittell 9-4 through the remainder of the conference clash to hold the Warriors at bay.
"Digging ourselves a hole is something this team is used to," Whittell coach Tyler Rose said. "I knew our guys would battle back, but we expected Sparks to come right after us.
"We couldn't get consistent stops. We made our own mistakes. Sparks did not put a lot of pressure on us. We just gave the ball away."
Railroaders all-league forward Martin Jordan had 19 points to lead all scorers, but he had just one after halftime as Whittell got back in contention. Xavier Rodriguez and Darius Devine both contributed 10 points to the winning SHS cause.
Blake Heldt-Werk and Alex Potnick finished with 14 and 11 points respectively to pace the Whittell offensive attack.
"We would work hard on offense just to get an open look at a 15- to 20-foot shot. Then we'd give up a layup at the other end. It was counterproductive," Jones said.
"They beat us in the second half. I told our guys, we let them have a two-hour bus ride home where now they feel like they can beat us when we play them again at their place, instead of just finishing them. We're behind the eight ball a little bit in the future."
Sparks (9-5, 3-1) and Whittell meet again next month at Stateline. First, the Railroaders return to the hardwood Friday for a 7:30 p.m. league game at Truckee.
•At Sparks, the SHS girls handled Whittell for a 38-32 league victory. The win, combined with Saturday's triumph over North Tahoe, gives Sparks back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. It's the local club's first back-to-back league wins in more than 13 years.
Krystal Parker dropped a trio of 3-point bombs and accounted for half of the Sparks offense, finishing with 19 points in the win. No other Railroader had more than five points.
Whittell's Amanda Harris posted 15 points to lead the Warriors.
The contest was knotted at 5-5 after the first period, but Sparks had a 16-10 lead at halftime. The margin was still six, 26-20 after three periods and the Railroaders hung on for the six-point win.
Sparks (2-2 league) plays at Truckee Friday in a 6 p.m. game.