Highlanders taste big time at Cyclone Classic tourney
The Eureka Springs Highlanders stepped up in classification and into the big time last weekend with three games at the Russellville High School Cyclone Basketball Classic as they put their 9-0 season mark on the line.
A handful of loyal fans saw the team battle Class AAAA Monticello on Thursday in a close loss, 70-62, Eureka's first of the year. More fans and the entire cheerleading squad showed up for Friday's match with Class AAAAA Texarkana High, but the Razorbacks ran to a 67-39 victory.
On Saturday, the Highlanders got back into the win column, beating Class AAA Waldron 63-52, for a 10-2 season record.
THURSDAY, DEC. 6
It was the first loss of the year after nine wins, but no insult to the Highlanders, as the Billies were a state Class AAAA playoff team last year and had four starters back.
Among those was John Jackson, who has signed to play football at the University of Arkansas.
"Calling them athletic is an understatement," Coach Hill said. "Their most athletic player was the 6-3 kid, and another one must have had a 40-inch vertical jump. We were adjusting to that the first half."
Coach Hill said the Highlanders played too much 1-on-1 the first half, which put them down 8 at the break, but worked the ball better the second half.
With Monticello playing man-to-man, senior Brian Abendroth still got some good looks from long range, and hit for 6 threes and 24 points on the night.
"We were driving in, then kicking the ball out," Hill said. "They were a good bunch, so I felt good about us penetrating and getting those kinds of shots against a man defense."
Griggs Covington also made several threes to help the cause, and Cash Covington had one. Monticello started holding the ball with about 4 minutes to go, but started missing short jumpers, with Eureka getting the rebounds.
It was mostly a 5-point game the second half, as Eureka took it to Monticello better, with the Highlanders trailing just 58-59 with about 2 minutes to go.
Jackson killed that when he brought the ball down and fired in a three, the first one of the night for Monticello, putting the Billies up by four.
Monticello made 13 of 15 free throws in the second half and held on for a 70-62 win when Eureka couldn't get the stops and the ball back at the end of the game.
Scoring- ES- Abendroth- 24, 6 3's; G. Covington- 19; C. Covington- 7; John Hall- 6; Matt Smith- 4; Jake McMorrow- 2. MN- Nick Foster- 21; Ryan Shepherd- 16; Jackson- 13.
FRIDAY, DEC. 7
It was a physical game that the officials decided to let the kids settle. Players were routinely stripped of the ball, whacked during shots, and knocked out of bounds ---- both teams.
It took Eureka a little longer to adjust to the rough play, with the Razorbacks' quickness making the difference.
"The officials refed it in state tournament style," Coach Hill said. "It was physical."
The Highlanders started in a 2-1-2 zone, and tried to trap the Razorbacks out of a wide 1-3-1, but couldn't shut down Texarkana's Floyd Hayes, who jump-shot his way to 32 points by game's end.
Cash Covington had two tip-ins the first half, and his three with 9:36 to play put Eureka up 13-12, but when Coach Josh Hill subbed to keep his starters fresh, it took a couple of trips for fresh players to adjust to the rough play, giving Texarkana turnovers and points.
Hayes jump-shot a long three to beat the halftime buzzer and the Razorbacks went in up 12 at the break. Hayes had 16.
Eureka got more physical in the second half but it didn't help, as Hayes scored 16 points in what would have been the third quarter.
Coach Hill cleared the bench, starting at the 9:02 mark, and Texarkana went on to the win.
"They only made two threes the night before against Dardanelle," Coach Hill said. "They had six at the half against us and hit their shots real well. Whenever we could get into our halfcourt game, we could play, but we had too many turnovers."
Scoring- ES- C. Covington- 10; McMorrow- 6; Matt Smith- 6; Chris Williams- 6; G. Covington- 4; Trae Thompson- 3; Russell Williams- 3; Scott Kelley- 1. TX- Hayes- 32, 4 3's, 4/4 Fts; David Byrd- 11; Matthew Hawkins- 9.
SATURDAY, DEC. 8
16-9, 26-27, 40-31, 63-53
They played this one in quarters, instead of halves, with Eureka jumping out 14-5 in the first period.
Waldron came back in the second when the Highlanders went cold, with Griggs Covington scoring the team's first basket with 4:51 left until halftime.
Poor defense and turnovers put Eureka behind, but after the half they rebounded better and crept out to a 34-31 lead. Covington hit a three to make it 37-31, then Brian Abendroth just beat the buzzer with a long three to make it 40-31 with one quarter to go, inspiring the loyal crowd.
Coach Hill put the Highlanders in a man defense the final quarter and it worked, with Cash Covington scoring a layup, and Griggs streaking for one to put the team up 46-31 with 4:24 to go.
Then, with 3:43 to go, the Bulldogs got two steals for layups off a man press and cut the lead to 50-43. Cash hit four free throws by the 1:37 mark to make it 56-45, but he fouled out with 1:30 to play.
Eureka made 13 of 20 free throws in the fourth to secure the win, while Waldron went 10 of 16.
Scoring- ES- C. Covington- 19, 8/10 Fts., 4/6 4th; G. Covington- 17, 2/4 4th; Hall- 9, 4/4; Abendroth- 8, 2/2 4th; McMorrow- 6; Smith- 4, 3/4 4th. WL- John Hall, James Stephens- 11.