Lady Highlanders take 3rd in district, will play for state bid

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Eureka Springs Lady Highlanders are one victory away from the state tournament.

The Lady Highlanders continued their resurgence on Friday, beating Decatur 36-26 in the third-place game of the 2A-1 conference tournament at Yellville.

Eureka Springs (23-13) will play Danville at 7 p.m. Thursday in the 2A West Regional Tournament at Danville. The winner will secure a spot in the Class 2A state tournament that begins Feb. 26 at Carlisle.

The Lady Highlanders took control of Friday’s game with an 11-0 run, starting with senior forward Shelby Little’s basket from inside the lane with 1.7 seconds left in the first quarter. That put Eureka Springs ahead 13-9, and the Lady Highlanders scored the first nine points of the second quarter. Little had a pair of baskets during that run, which was capped by a driving layup from junior guard Gracie Lester.

Junior forward Megan Holloway scored the first four points of the second half as the Lady Highlanders stretched their lead to 26-11.

Eureka Springs coach Ryan Sanchez said playing in the third-place game, after losing in the tournament semifinals, might have affected his team offensively.

“It’s hard to get up for a game like that, because you’re not playing for anything as far as winning the district,” he said. “But you are playing for a better seed at regionals, and that’s important. We were lethargic on offense. It wasn’t fluid. That probably had a lot to do with it. Defensively, we’re there. We’re talking, we’re active. We just never got in a rhythm offensively.”

Decatur got within 10 twice in the third quarter, but Holloway converted an offensive rebound into a basket to give the Lady Highlanders a 30-18 lead at the end of the quarter, then hit a turnaround bank shot to open the fourth-quarter scoring. Little added a turnaround jumper from the lane for a 34-18 cushion.

The Lady Highlanders won despite converting just three of 14 free throws.

Holloway scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half to lead Eureka Springs. Little had 11 points in the first half and finished with 13.

Looking ahead to Thursday’s game against Danville, Sanchez said the Lady Highlanders should have an advantage in the post with the 6-3 Holloway and 6-0 Lester.

“It’s hard for any 2A team to match up with us height-wise,” he said.

Danville (26-3) instead is likely to rely on its backcourt. Sanchez said the Lady Little Johns have “three solid guards,” despite losing their best player to a torn ACL late in the regular season.

“They’re definitely a different team without her,” Sanchez said. “But they’re a winning team. We definitely out-man them in the post, but their guard play is really solid.”

Danville will have the home-court advantage, but Sanchez has personal experience with that situation not working out.

“When I was a senior (in 2014) we hosted a regional at Eureka Springs, and we got beat in the first round,” the first-year coach said. “That will be a factor, but hopefully we can overcome it.”

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