Highlanders defense key to big win
EUREKA SPRINGS -- Despite the offensive weapons the Eureka Springs Highlander basketball team has, coach Brian Rambo said his team must be able to play defense in order to win this year.
The Highlanders showed their coach they can play defense well in a 61-52 win against the Cotter Warriors, who had been averaging 74 points a game entering Monday evening's game.
"I thought our defensive intensity really set the tone for the game," Rambo said. "I mean, we held them to five points in that first quarter and that kind of shocked them a little bit, put them on their heels a little bit."
Nine points from Reggie Sanchez and two three-pointers by Dalton Kesner gave the Highlanders a 15-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the Highlanders had extended the lead to 30-15 thanks to another Kesner three and six more points from Sanchez.
"I'm kind of surprised they had trouble scoring the ball there in that first half," Rambo said. "I think they were just shocked with our athleticism and our style and physicality, thank goodness because we got outscored in the second half a little bit."
The Warriors had made it a 45-37 ballgame with 4:21 left in the third quarter, but after a Highlander timeout, Oscar Mendez buried a three and Sanchez added two free throws on the next possession to extend the lead back to 13. Despite Cotter trimming the lead to eight with two minutes remaining, Eureka Springs felt in control of the second half.
"In the second half, I think we got worn down a little bit because they are big and physical," Rambo said. "They are probably an inch or two taller than us at every position and I think that wore on us in the third quarter, especially there in the fourth, but we hung in there got some big rebounds, made some shots and came away with the win."
Sanchez had 31 points while Kesner had 15 and J.M. Gregg had nine. The Highlanders hosted St. Joe on Thursday.