By Richard Sharp Lake Area Sports
GREERS FERRY-With Thanksgiving just three days away, the West Side varsity basketball teams gave themselves a lot to be thankful for last Monday night: A spot in the driver’s seat of the 1A-5 Conference standings following a sweep of Sacred Heart, as the Lady Eagles feasted on the Lady Rebels 63-49 before the Eagles went in for a second helping, demolishing the Rebels 71-47 last Monday from Brady-Hipp Arena.
SR. GIRLS West Side-63 Sacred Heart-49
The Lady Eagles leaned on the length of third-year starter and senior Alex Southerland from the opening tip, who used her 6’2″ frame to reach over defenders for multiple points inside the lane, receiving multiple feeds from classmate and fellow starter Madison Bailey, as the hosts took a double-digit lead (16-6) into the second quarter.
The lead grew to 24-9 on a triple from the left corner from junior phenom Haley Gentry, as sophomore scrapper Ashtyn Knapp forced a Sacred Heart timeout with two minutes remaining in the first half after finding Bailey for the dime off a steal, converting on a layup with heavy contact before West Side held for the final shot, which was taken by Southerland and made from the left block off a dump pass from sophomore Sarah Carlton, making it 32-16 after the first sixteen minutes of action.
Bailey added to her stat line with a second half-opening triple from the left corner, leading to a perfect trip to the charity stripe and a pull-up shot in the paint for Knapp for a 47-31 advantage.
Gentry opened the fourth session with a pair of free throws, but a driving finish for sophomore Halen Hoelzeman brought about a Lady Eagle timeout at 50-36, opening the door for Southerland to come through with an old-fashioned three-point play to extend back out to 17 before senior Madeline Bottoms struck with three points of her own with the hoop and the harm, getting help from sophomore Riley Oliver’s trifecta before Carlton made the Lady Rebels pay after leading her open from beyond the arc, splashing it home from beyond the arc to bring the score to 60-45 with under three minutes to play.
Hoelzeman converted on a coast-to-coast finish to bring Sacred Heart as close as they have been all night at 60-49, but a Knapp basket off a spin move and free throw iced the game and sent West Side to the win column once again.
Knapp had 19 for the winners, getting 18 from Southerland, 13 from Gentry and eight from Bailey. Bottoms, who drilled a trio of three-pointers, had 16 for Sacred Heart (7-4, 1-3), adding Hoelzeman’s 10 into the mix.
With the victory, the Lady Eagles move to 9-1 on the campaign while remaining unbeaten in league play at 5-0, extending their winning streak to nine after dropping their season opener to defending Class 2A state runner-up Riverside. This week provided two crucial match-ups for West Side, as they traveled to Mt. Vernon-Enola (8-1, 2-1) yesterday before returning home to take on arch rival Concord (8-2, 4-1), who the Lady Eagles have a full game lead over in the standings. In the MaxPreps Arkansas Class 1A high school girls basketball rankings, MVE stands in at second with West Side taking the last podium spot at third, with Concord coming in at sixth. Class 1A Viola, who remains undefeated at 12-0, sits atop the rankings. SR.
BOYS West Side-71 Rebels-47
Junior forward Malachi Miller made his 6’3″ presence felt in this one from the opening tip, providing the first 11 points of the contest for the Eagles, beginning with a finish from the right block on a nice feed from sophomore Travis Gentry, adding on four more on two made free throws and a tough finish with contact, as Sacred Heart held a 7-6 lead thanks in part to a three-pointer from senior Qualyn James.
Miller added another basket to his total on a streak to the basket before cashing in from downtown in the right corner before sophomore forward Brenton Knapp found Gentry up ahead for a fast break score, leading to a pull-up shot from Miller that glided through the net for his thirteenth point. Gentry tipped in a shot at the first quarter horn off a Knapp miss to make it 17-11.
West Side continued to control the tempo in the second quarter, going up five on a floater in the lane from junior guard Jake Ballard, adding on a put-back from junior Nate Bittle and a baseline floater from Gentry, capping off the first half with a connection between the passer Gentry and the shooter Bittle for the lay-in, leading 32-21 heading to the intermission.
Miller picked up right where he left off with a one-handed finish in front of the rim, while junior Ashton Klepko tacked on a reverse layup to make it a fifteen-point game before junior Lane Wells cut into the lead with a triple, however Miller found Bittle inside for a duece after attracting a double-team.
The Eagles pushed it out to a 20-point cushion after Miller picked up another assist on a pass up ahead to Gentry for the left-handed finish, who added a three from the right corner before Miller brought the third quarter to a close with a reverse finish, ahead 55-31 with eight more minutes.
Junior Jared Cothren cashed in on a shot attempt from downtown off a find from Gentry, getting back-to-back shots from down low to fall for Miller right before Bittle’s turnaround shot enforced the mercy rule, as the Eagles put it into cruise control the rest of the way.
Miller led all scorers with 25 points, getting strong contributions from Gentry (19) and Bittle (10).The Eagles improved to 7-3 overall while maintaining a perfect record in the 1A-5 at 5-0. A battle of conference unbeatens took place last night, as West Side made the trek to Mt. Vernon-Enola (8-1) to take on the 3-0 Warhawks, making it back to Greers Ferry to play host to arch rival Concord (8-2), who came into the week with a 4-1 league mark.