Highlanders getting back on track

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Experienced teams always fight back when facing adversity. That is what the Eureka Springs Highlanders did at home Monday night when they defeated Johnson County Westside, 71-23.

"I thought our team's defensive intensity was where it needed to be from the very beginning of the game," Eureka Springs coach Brian Rambo said. "We really set the tone in the first couple minutes with our intensity and our aggressiveness. We sped the game up to a tremendous pace, something that Johnson County wasn't accustomed to and wasn't comfortable with."

The Highlanders led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter and had a 42-15 lead at halftime.

"Offensively, we did a lot of good things," Rambo said. "We shot the ball extremely well."

Eureka Springs had a 62-19 lead going into the fourth quarter. Reggie Sanchez led the Highlanders with 32 points and J.M. Gregg had 16. Monday's win meant that the Highlander seniors have won 20 games all three years they have been on the team.

"That's a big accomplishment for those guys," Rambo said. "I told my guys that no matter what happens from here on out, they can go out winners. There aren't many graduating classes that can say all three years of their high school career they won 20 games, so I'm proud of that."

Eureka Springs 52, Hackett 27

The Highlanders were at it again Tuesday night, this time traveling to Hackett. While the score might make it look like the Highlanders got an easy victory, Eureka Springs led just 23-15 at halftime.

"It was just a really physical game," Rambo said. "Their kids played extremely hard. They got away with some hand-checking and some bumping and it got physical. It was a real gut-check for us. We had to go on the road and face a team that wasn't as talented as us, but they were going to try to beat us on physicality. They stood in there and matched us punch for punch for a while."

The Highlanders outscored Hackett 15-8 in the third quarter to take a 38-23 lead going into the fourth quarter.

"They had a good game plan, and we just couldn't get in any rhythm offensively," Rambo said. "Those things can get in your head as a player. You're getting pushed around, missing some shots, next thing you know, things aren't going well, but we did a good job of handling that adversity."

Sanchez had 18 points in the victory while Mathew McClung had a season-high 16.

"He definitely had a breakout game last night," Rambo said of McClung. "He got some easy buckets, easy layups. Hit a big three for us and guarded. He has really responded in the last couple of games. Whenever Reggie and J.M. are going to chip in their usual 15 to 20 points a game and if we can get Dalton Kesner or Mathew to get in double figures, that is a huge shot in the arm for us."

On Thursday, the Highlanders hosted cross-county rival Green Forest.

"You want to play well against a county rival," Rambo said. "We expect to have four good games, hope to have a good crowd and expect it to be a lot of fun."

The action starts at 4 p.m.

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