Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Sluggish final sees Wolves defeat Bears

Leader sports editor

RUSSELLVILLE – The Sylvan Hills Bears suffered a scoring drought at the most inopportune time, resulting in a 35-30 loss to Lake Hamilton in the championship game of the Cyclone Invitational on Saturday at RHS.

In a strangely lethargic atmosphere for a tournament championship, both teams and their sparse fans seemed sluggish throughout. The arena was close to empty for the tournament’s last game, and the energy was lagging. Both teams played most of the game in a 2-3 zone and it fell into a very slow pace throughout. Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis also thought his team’s tournament schedule left it somewhat fatigued by tournament’s end.

“We played back-to-back 8:30 games,” Davis said. “We played the 8:30 game last night then had to drive home, and most of them got up early to go take the ACT this morning. Then we had to come up here and play. So I think we were a little tired, and I think the whole atmosphere in here wasn’t what you’d expect for a championship game. Neither team is from this area and not many people made it up here. I think all that had to do with why I thought both teams looked a little sluggish tonight.”

Sylvan Hills picked its moments to try and infuse some intensity into the game, trapping occasionally out of the zone and briefly switching to full-court pressure after Lake Hamilton extended its lead to seven in the third quarter.

The Wolves, 7-2, scored first after winning the opening tip. Despite not scoring another basket from the floor until the 6:23 mark of the second quarter, the bucket gave them a 9-8 lead. The Wolves missed 13 consecutive shots, but made four free throws while Sylvan Hills struggled with turnovers.

The Bears led 8-6 at the end of the first quarter, but Lake Hamilton’s Samuel Scott hit the three that put his team up early in the second. All but two of the Wolves’ 11 second-quarter points came from beyond the arc, and the 6A-South squad took a 17-12 lead into intermission.

Sylvan Hills committed just two turnovers in the second quarter, but struggled from the floor and the free-throw line. They were only able to get nine shots off, making two of them. But they missed all five free-throw attempts. The Bears only got two more the rest of the game, making one of them to finish 1 for 7 from the line.

The Wolves scored first to start the third quarter, but Sylvan Hills answered with a 7-0 run, the only scoring burst by either team the entire game, and it tied the score with 5:43 left in the third.

Lake Hamilton went inside after a timeout, and post players Jason Burks and Quan Gibson scored eight-straight points for the Wolves. LHHS reclaimed a 27-23 lead before a Sylvan Hills trap forced a turnover that guard Dexter Smith turned into a 3-pointer to make it 27-26 at the start of the fourth quarter. It was the last field goal for Sylvan Hills until only one second remained in the game.

Lake Hamilton got the ball to start the fourth and held it for more than a minute before Scott hit another 3-pointer to make it 30-26. Shortly afterwards, he hit another from deep to make it 33-26, and neither team hit another shot from the floor the rest of the game.

Sylvan Hills, 3-2, struggled to find open shots and didn’t make them once attempted. Lake Hamilton’s bigger post players made sure the Bears got just one shot per possession, and the Wolves’ offense held the ball effectively.

Both teams shot poorly and almost identically from the floor. Sylvan Hills went 7 of 25 from two-point range and 5 of 15 from outside. Lake Hamilton went 7 of 24 and 5 of 14. The difference was at the free-throw line and on the boards. Lake Hamilton made 6 of 9 foul shots and out-rebounded the Bears 27-18.

The Bears and Lady Bears hit the road on Friday to take on Watson Chapel, and won’t return to action until the boys go to Pine Bluff and the girls to Beebe for holiday tournaments.