Highlanders win tournament title before first loss of season

Thursday, November 18, 2021
Eureka Springs coach Brian Rambo gives instructions to his team during a game earlier this season. The Highlanders’ victory over Ozark Christian last Friday was Rambo’s 200th win in 10-plus seasons at Eureka Springs.
Robert Cox / Lovely County Citizen

The Eureka Springs Highlanders suffered their first loss of the season on Tuesday night as Class 4A Huntsville pulled out a 51-44 victory over the Class 2A Highlanders on Eureka Springs’ home floor.

That doesn’t diminish one of the best starts in school history, however.

Before the loss to Huntsville, the Highlanders reeled off 11 consecutive wins to open the season — including a 62-59 overtime victory over Ozark Christian in the championship game of Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy tournament last Friday night in Bentonville.

The victory was Brian Rambo’s 200th win as Eureka Springs’ coach.

“I’m proud of my guys for hanging in there to the end and gutting one out,” Rambo said.

In his 11th season at Eureka Springs, Rambo said he can’t recall ever having a team start 11-0. Three years ago, the Highlanders won 19 consecutive games before a season-ending loss in the state tournament.

In the win over Ozark Christian, Eureka Springs trailed 21-18 at halftime but fought back to tie the score by the end of the third quarter. After regulation time ended with the score tied at 51, the Highlanders outscored Ozark Christian 11-8 in overtime.

Eureka Springs made 14 three-pointers in 28 attempts, led by four apiece from seniors Matthew Lester and Teagan Farriester. Lester and junior forward Dylan Johnson each scored 16 points while Farriester added 12 and senior Braden Gerth scored 11 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists.

Eureka Springs will face another Class 4A opponent on Friday, traveling to Pea Ridge.

“Any time you go up two classifications, it’s a tall order,” Rambo said Monday. “But with our group having these games under their belt — honestly, in retrospect of Friday night’s game, that game was good for us in terms of being battle-tested. We’ve had a lot of games early this season where we kind of just went in and imposed our will on people. That’s not going to be the case this week with Huntsville and Pea Ridge. They’re quality basketball teams, they’re well-coached, they’re two steps up in classification. So that type of game on Friday was good for us to experience and get us ready for this week, for sure.”

Against Huntsville on Tuesday, the Highlanders held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Eagles rallied to pull out the win. Rambo said the Highlanders will learn from that experience.

“We just kind of got frantic and gave the game away,” he said. “We did some things that seasoned basketball teams just don’t do. … But I told my guys, we’re no worse off after the game than we were before the game. They don’t give out trophies for nonconference games. Every game until we get to conference is a learning opportunity for us.”

Eureka Springs’ girls beat Decatur 38-2 last Thursday to take third place in the Northwest Arkansas Classical tournament. The Lady Highlanders lost to Huntsville on Tuesday after falling behind early, but will carry a 7-4 record into Friday’s game at Pea Ridge.

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