Friday, February 05, 2010

SPORTS >> Owls take shot, hit more

Leader sports editor

Abundant Life used its entire roster, including junior varsity players, and 11 of the 15 scored in the Owls’ 77-51 home victory over Little Rock Lutheran on Tuesday.

But Lutheran was not without its highlights.

Abundant Life was on its way to a 41-18 halftime lead when Little Rock Lutheran guard Lake Hollowell fired a one-handed, baseball throw from in front of the Lutheran bench— on the far side of the center line — to make a buzzer-beating three-pointer that cut it to 41-21.

“A hail Mary, I don’t know,” Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard said of the parochial school prayer shot. “We’re not Catholic. I don’t guess.”

Apparently, Lutheran has a way of making such miracles almost routine.

“He did that yesterday in practice,” Lutheran coach Aaron DuVall said of Hollowell. “He just picked up a basketball, one hand all the way down the floor and it went in. I don’t know; it’s crazy. We’ve hit a halfcourt shot like that before here so, I don’t know, it’s just funny.”

Ballard remembered a similar shot at Lutheran from a few years ago.

“Over the years, Lutheran has made about four or five of those on us,” Ballard said. “It doesn’t matter, they always make them.

One time at their place they made a fullcourt shot but there was a problem with the clock — it would have won the game — so then they ran it again and hit the backboard and the rim and came out.”

But while Lutheran had the eye-popping single shot, Abundant Life emptied its bench in the second half and got its baskets in bushels to make the difference Tuesday. Ballard wanted his players to exploit the perimeter this season and gave orders that no one could get on the floor unless he was able to make a three-pointer.

Mission accomplished, as six different Owls made three-pointers, including some of the last players off the bench, and Abundant Life had a total of 10.

“If somebody starts playing a junk defense, like they were doing tonight with a triangle and two, they leave the perimeter open,” Ballard said. “So I told my guys it’s going to be a matter of playing horse the rest of the game on shooting open threes.”

The junior varsity game scheduled for Tuesday didn’t take place because Lutheran didn’t have enough players. Ballard was happy for the opportunity to get his younger players in the game as the Owls continued to hold, or build, their big lead in the second half.

The only danger was the chance Abundant Life would build its lead to 30 and trigger the nonstop clock under the high school sportsmanship/timing rule.

“I felt terrible because it was supposed to be their last JV game,” Ballard said. “I was really trying to keep the score under 30 so the clock wouldn’t run so we could give those guys more time. So that’s why we were subbing a little earlier than usual.”

Abundant Life played Thurs-day at Conway Christian and has its regular season finale at Mountain View on Friday. With the district tournament around the corner, Ballard welcomed the chance to use a lot of players, resting starters and getting backups more experience.

“This time of the year, that third string is not getting a lot of my time in practice,” Ballard said. “So to be able to reward them a little bit, hopefully, will bring them back a little bit more motivated tomorrow for practice.”

Mike Stramiello scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter as Abundant Life (26-4, 10-0 5-2A North) rolled to a 23-9 lead. Cameron Slayton made four three-pointers and finished with 14 points and George Herring chipped in 12 points.

Hollowell led Lutheran (10-10, 4-7) with 13 points and Markham Roberson scored 11.

“They shot the ball unbelievably well,” DuVall said. “I don’t know how many threes they hit but it seemed like, with guys in their face, they had outstanding shooting. And that’s kind of what we expected coming here and we just did the best we can to defend it.”