Big early deficit too much for Highlanders to overcome

The Eureka Springs Highlanders aren’t the kind of basketball team that’s capable — yet — of overcoming big deficits.

So, when the Highlanders fell behind by double-digits at the beginning of Tuesday night’s 2A-1 conference game on Life Way Christian’s home floor in Centerton, it was too much to overcome.

The Highlanders settled down after stumbling out of the gate, but the Warriors made the big early lead hold up for a 71-60 victory.

“We got down 11-1 right off the bat,” Eureka Springs coach Brian Rambo said Wednesday. “I called a timeout, then right out of the timeout we turned it over and they got a layup and it was 13-1 and we were three minutes into the game. Then we settled down and played. We got it to five in the fourth quarter, but during that stretch in the fourth quarter I had four sophomores out there. You can’t just expect, with the youth that we have and the lack of size that we have, we can just go out and make up those kind of deficits.”

Rambo said he’s hopeful that the loss will serve as a lesson for his team.

“It’s a good learning point for us,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to go out and control those things. Their crowd got into it and their kids got into it. It could have gotten out of hand pretty quickly.”

Eureka Springs hit a pair of three-pointers and closed the deficit to four by the end of the first quarter.

“We were always playing catch-up from that point,” Rambo said.

The Highlanders’ potential is promising as a talented sophomore class gains experience and senior Michael Lester continues to have a solid season. Eureka Springs showed off a balanced offense in the loss to Life Way Christian, led by 16 points from sophomore Kenner Leavell. Lester added 14 and sophomore Drew Farrar scored eight.

“Guys are able to score the basketball and make shots,” Rambo said. “We’ve just got to get past those youth mistakes. … But we’re competing. The kids are enjoying it. They’re still working hard. We know there’s some wins out there for us.”

Eureka Springs won its conference opener against Haas Hall of Bentonville by a 52-47 score on Tuesday, Dec. 5, offering a possible glimpse at things to come.

“We shot it really well in that game,” Rambo said. “We were down 10 with five minutes to go in the game and finished the game on an 18-3 run.”

Haas Hall’s up-tempo style of play came back to bite the Huskies.

“We started making some shots and they had a hard time slowing down at the end when they needed to slow down with the lead and take some time off the clock,” Rambo said. “They kept shooting and missing and we kept scoring and it got away from them. It was good for our kids to stay in the game and fight, make some big shots and make some clutch, clutch free throws down the stretch. We made four in a row with under two minutes to go in the game to kind of put the game away.”