Tuesday, March 06, 2012

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills destroys Greenwood in semis

Leader sports editor

It looked like the West Conference might be the downfall of Sylvan Hills again in the class 5A state tournament at Greene County Tech High School in Paragould. After struggling badly in the quarterfinals and barely beating the three seed Morrilton Devil Dogs, Sylvan Hills had to face two seed Greenwood. The Bulldogs were bigger and more experienced than Morrilton and had beaten the Devil Dogs twice this season.

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis and his staff saw some things, implemented a special game plan and his senior-laden squad followed the plan perfectly. The result was an anticlimactic, but utterly dominant performances, as the Bears pummeled Greenwood 68-34 to advance to the championship game Saturday in Hot Springs for the second-straight year.

The Bears will face the Mills Comets for third time this season in the championship game, scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Saturday at Summit Arena.

“It’s one thing to make observations and pass that along to your kids,” Davis said. “It’s something else for them to take what you told them and implement it during the game. These kids are seniors. They’re experienced, and they took the things we talked about seriously. They went out and did the things we talked about and you can see the results.”

The Bears played Greenwood almost as if it were a three-person team. Point guard Drew Morgan, post player Ethan Clark and guard-forward scorer Ryan Lensing drew almost all of Sylvan Hills’ defensive attention during the game.

Even to the point where Bear defenders would rush to those players during Bulldog transitions, leaving other players wide open. Lensing and Clark scored 12 and 11 points respectively to lead the Bulldogs, but the strategy worked. Add in Morgan’s four points, and the rest of the team combined for seven points.

“At this point in the year, it’s time to adjust some things if you think it’s going to help you,” Davis said.

While Lensing and Clark have led Greenwood in scoring all season, it’s Morgan that runs the show and makes the offense work for the Bulldogs. Morgan is also left handed, and Sylvan Hills’ guard Dion Patton defended him heavily to his left side, almost daring Morgan to try to go right. Morgan could not get past Patton’s defense.

The Sylvan Hills senior point guard had five steals in the first quarter alone. The Bears forced Greenwood into 13 first-half turnovers and Patton finished with 10 steals.

The Bears also overplayed the passing lanes to Lensing and Clark, getting several more steals by flashing those lanes in their halfcourt defense.

“I wasn’t counting them,” Patton said of his steals. “I didn’t know I had that many, but I wanted to apply pressure on the ball and play aggressively. The whole team came out focused on playing good defense.”

Sylvan Hills post player Devin Pearson, who drew the task of defending Clark one-on-one, said. “We talked about who their scorers were. We talked about who was left handed and who was right handed. Mostly we just wanted to play defense as well as we possibly could.”

The Bears began pulling away from the opening tip. Patton not only got five steals in the first quarter, he also scored six points, all off transition buckets after steals. He dished out three assists in the quarter as well and helped balance the scoring by distributing the ball in transition.

The Bears led 21-9 after the first quarter and Greenwood could never get close enough again to make much of a game. The margin grew to 21 points by halftime. The third quarter was fairly even as Sylvan Hills went through a bit a shooting drought. The Bears still outscored Greenwood 15-13 and led 51-28 heading into the fourth.

Sylvan Hills found its touch and stepped on the gas again offensively in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 quick points and invoking the mercy rule at the 5:32 mark with a 61-31 lead.

Goodwin scored 24 to lead the Bears while Patton added 14. Larry Ziegler scored eight while Pearson and Daylon Jones added six each for the Bears.

Friday’s game wasn’t nearly as easy. Morrilton caught fire late in the second quarter and didn’t cool down until the last half of the fourth quarter. Sylvan Hills somehow managed to keep it close and won the game with Goodwin on the bench for the final four minutes after fouling out with 3:56 left to play.

Morrilton led 57-55 at the time of Goodwin’s exit, but scored just two more points the rest of the game.

“That was just another example of a senior-laden team digging deep and finding a way,” Davis said. “Morrilton was shooting the lights out of the place and then we lose our best scorer. The kids knew it was going to come down again to defense, and they just went out and got it.”