Tuesday, December 29, 2015

SPORT STORY >> Badger defense stifles Eagles

Leader sports editor

The Beebe boys’ basketball team got a big win Monday in the first round of its own Badger Christmas Classic, beating former conference rival Greene County Tech 58-39 at Badger Arena. The Badgers controlled the action from start to finish with defense, and got a big lift offensively from senior guard Bryson Bell, who finished with a game-high 18 points.

“Bryson had a great game and shot the ball really well,” said Beebe coach Ryan Marshall. “But I thought our other guys did a great job of breaking their three-quarter press and finding him for those shots. But no doubt he was big for us. We went into halftime up about 14, and he was the difference.”

Bell hit five of his six 3-pointers in the first half, including four in a row in the second quarter. His first shot came with 1:40 left in the first quarter and gave the Badgers a 10-2 lead. Tech got two free throws but neither team was able to get another basket until the final buzzer. The Badgers held for the last shot but the offense broke down.

Point guard Grant Brown ended up with a loose ball about 28 feet from the basket as the clock was running down, and he hit the long-range jumper to give Beebe a 13-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Badgers took their first double-digit lead with three minutes left in the first half when junior forward Brad Worthington scored on a running layup. GCT’s Cody Dortch answered quickly at the other end, and that’s when Bell caught fire. He hit a shot from left corner to make it 28-17 with two minutes remaining. Just 20 seconds later after a steal by Brown, Bell hit another shot from the same spot to put the Badgers up by 14. After Tech (1-7) scored again, Bell added one more to send the Badgers into halftime with a 34-19 lead.

Beebe went 5 for 6 from 3-point range in the first half, and drew a spy for most of the second half. The Eagles held him without a shot attempt in the third quarter, but sophomore point guard DeAundre Butler picked up the slack in a different way. Butler repeatedly got to the rim for seven points early in the third period. His running floater with 5:47 left in the third put the Badgers up 40-19.

Tech switched to full court man defense and slowed down Beebe’s offense, but the Eagles could never get their own offense going against Beebe’s zone defense.

“We played more zone tonight than we had been and I thought we played pretty well,” Marshall said. “We started the season playing good defense, but the last few games we’ve struggled. So we tried some different things tonight with our lineup and with what we were trying to do.”

The Badgers (2-6) forced 23 turnovers and committed just 13, but they were outrebounded 29-16 and only made 9 of 21 free-throw attempts.

“Our free-throw shooting has been inconsistent all year and we need to clean that up,” Marshall said. “That’s a lot of points we left out there on that line.”

Bell was the only Badger in double figures, but nine different Beebe players scored. Butler and Worthington each finished with nine points while K.J. O’Neill eight.

Beebe’s leading scorer, Austin Moore, who averages nearly 20 points per game, didn’t start Monday’s game, played very few minutes before fouling out with just two points.

“I wouldn’t say we won this game without him,” Marshall said. “He’s an important presence for us when he’s out there. He’s just hasn’t been moving his feet well on defense and fouling too much. But he’s still a huge part of what we do and he’s going to be big for us this year. “As far as the win, I’d say it was very much needed. That’s the first 5A team we’ve beat in about a year and a half. So hopefully we’re making some progress and can get some confidence from this.”