Bobcats hold off Highlanders
By Scott Loftis
Going into Friday’s season-opener, the Berryville Bobcats knew they would have to find some reliable scorers to replace some key players from last year’s team.
The Bobcats also faced a defensive challenge in opening the season against a talented Eureka Springs team.
As it turned out, all that was no problem for the Bobcats.
Senior point guard Zakk Webb scored 21 points and the Bobcats’ defense harassed the Highlanders into a slew of turnovers and missed opportunities as Berryville defeated Eureka Springs 59-52 at Bobcat Arena.
“It was just a great start,” said Berryville coach Brent Compton. “We played a good team. I was impressed with the way our kids came out and finished.”
Berryville (1-0) led 52-40 after senior guard Rayden Peden scored a layup in transition with around three minutes remaining, but Eureka Springs (9-3) didn’t go down without a fight. After senior guard Garrett Cross hit a three-pointer with 2:23 remaining, the Highlanders called timeout and went into a press defense. Senior guard Griffin Taylor scored six points for Eureka Springs over the next 38 seconds, capped by a pair of free throws that pulled the Highlanders within three at 52-49 with 1:45 left.
Berryville scored the next six points, however, all on free throws from junior forward Scotland Lucas, pushing its lead back to nine at 58-49. After Eureka Springs freshman Matthew Lester hit a three-pointer, Lucas was fouled with 2.2 seconds remaining and made the second of two free throws to set the final score.
Eureka Springs coach Brian Rambo, whose team had defeated Class 4A Pea Ridge the night before, said the Highlanders weren’t at their best.
“I don’t know if we were physically tired, but mentally we just weren’t locked in,” he said.
Mostly, though, Rambo gave credit to the Bobcats.
“I really thought they shot the ball well,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t let Webb and Lucas score at will against us. We didn’t do a good job with that in the first half. Webb had 15 at halftime, but we held him to six in the second half, and Lucas only had one field goal in the second half. But when the other kids around them make shots, then you have problems.”
Lucas finished with 13 points. Peden had 15, including three of Berryville’s five three-pointers. Two of those came in the fourth quarter
Compton said he wasn’t surprised with Peden’s performance.
“We’ve been seeing it in practice,” he said. “We’ve got some kids who are capable of scoring.”
Cross scored 19 points for Eureka Springs, while Taylor added 15 and Lester scored 13.
A Peden three-pointer gave Berryville its first lead of the game at 9-6 in the first quarter. The Bobcats never trailed again, although the Highlanders tied the score on four occasions. The last of those came with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter, when Cross hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline to make it 30-30. Berryville responded with a 14-3 run capped by a Peden three-pointer with 6:55 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bobcats a 44-33 advantage.
Berryville will host Cassville, Mo., on Tuesday night at Bobcat Arena. Eureka Springs will take a break before returning to face Life Way Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the first round of the Decatur Holiday Hoops tournament.