Friday, November 27, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside ladies get lethargic victory

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ basketball team won its second game in a row and its home opener Tuesday, beating Joe T. Robinson 50-31 at SHHS. The Lady Senators started the game with only six players and finished it with just five after point guard Alexis Jones left the game midway through the fourth quarter with an injury.

Jones was the spark plug for a scrappy Robinson team, and Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis thought the visitors played with more energy than her squad.

“I don’t know, it just felt like we were flat, like we just didn’t have it tonight,” said Davis. “We looked slow, we looked out of shape. That’s why I kept them in the full court man the whole game. I wanted us to run. We need to play with more energy and we need to be in better shape. It might look like I did it because they only had six players, but that’s not why. That was about us and getting where we need to be. Our practice yesterday looked better than this. Of course that was an 8 a.m. practice. When you’re sitting around the house all day it can be tough to get going for a night game.”

Even if the Lady Bears looked unenergetic, the full court man defense wreaked havoc on the Senators, forcing 30 turnovers while Sylvan Hills guard Diamond Flanders neared double digits in steals, mostly in the backcourt.

Where things went wrong for Sylvan Hills was after the turnover. The Lady Bears failed to convert many of those turnovers into points, and got very few putback opportunities after missed shots. Robinson’s Asia Anderson was all over the boards and finished with 15 rebounds.

“Ahmann (Robinson coach Ahmann Love) has them playing hard and they played harder than us,” Davis said. “That one girl (Anderson) can jump out of the gym and we didn’t do anything with her. The point guard is tiny but she’s a great little ball handler. So they’ve got some pieces. They just have to play the whole game every game and that’s tough.”

Sylvan Hills didn’t start the game in the full court man, but switched to it shortly after a lethargic start to the game. The Lady Bears led 10-4 at the end of the first quarter, and began to pull away slightly in the second period.

Flanders and senior point guard Da’bria Thompson combined for five steals and helped force several other turnovers. Post player Reigen Thomas chased down a long rebound, turned and drained a 3-pointer to give Sylvan Hills its biggest lead of the half at 25-10.

“I’ve been trying to get her to do that more,” Davis said of Thomas’ outside shooting. “She’s got a beautiful looking shot. She said she’s just never shot from out there. She’s always been inside. But I’m encouraging her to take those when she gets the opportunity.”

The Lady Bears led 27-15 at halftime, and got that margin up to 24 before settling for a 39-21 lead at the end of the third quarter. Davis went almost entirely with bench players in the fourth quarter, and it became an even, back-and-forth affair.

Sylvan Hills was also hampered slightly by injury. Sophomore Lainie Ballard figures into the mix as, if not a starter, a key role player. She played on Tuesday, but sparingly.

“She’s been hurt so I knew she wasn’t ready,” Davis said. “We’ve just got a ways to go as far as getting into playing shape and picking up the energy. I thought we played really well at the Robinson tournament. They fought Nemo Vista tooth and nail most of the game. I was really proud of that because that team can play. 1A shmon A when it comes to girls’ basketball. Those girls can play.”

Nemo Vista is the two-time defending Class 1A state champions with almost everyone back from last season. They beat Sylvan Hills 60-42 in the first round of the tournament at Joe T. The Lady Bears then beat Caddo Hills 65-37.

Nemo Vista (13-0) beat Greenbrier 60-27 to win the tournament. Nine of NVHS’ wins have been by mercy rule, and only three by less than 20 points.

On Tuesday, Thompson led Sylvan Hills with 12 points while Thomas added 11. Flanders and Alana Canady scored eight apiece, and Flanders finished with eight steals.

The Lady Bears now have another long layoff before returning to play Friday at Batesville.

“I scheduled that game specifically because that’s the team that knocked us out of the state tournament last year,” Davis said.