photo by VONDA NORWOOD
Van Buren’s Jason Harms (right) tries to get past a Heritage defender during Tuesday’s 7A/6A West contest at Clair Bates Arena.
All season, Van Buren has been the 7A/6A-West’s stingiest defense. A 12-minute stretch in the Pointers 53-36 win against Heritage Tuesday showed why.
Van Buren, which allows just less than 47 points per conference game, surrendered just four points during the second quarter and the first four minutes of the third. That defensive effort turned a 12-9 lead into a commanding 29-13 advantage.
“They are so solid offensively, they never let you get easy points. They kind of suck the life out of you on that end,” War Eagles coach Tom Olsen said. “Defensively, they never seem to overextend, contest every shot and the big guy (6-foot-8 post Mitchell Smith) gets the rebound. They are the best defensive team in the league, by far.”
Ryan Pearson continued his recent hot play with a game-high 22 points for Van Buren. The trio of Pearson, Jason Harms (13 points) and Mitchell Smith (10 points), accounted for 45 of the Pointers’ points.
“When all three are in double figures, we’re pretty tough to beat,” Van Buren coach Randy Loyd said.
Defensively, Loyd said it has been about his team buying into his man-to-man defensive scheme.
“We keep getting better every game on defense,” Loyd said. “Heritage scored 63 in a win (against Fayetteville) last Friday, so I am proud of their efforts.”
Once the Van Buren lead reached double figures, the War Eagles (14-10, 4-7) never could rally.
The Pointers (18-4, 8-3) got the lead to 20 on an alley-oop slam by Smith with 4:38 left and had their largest advantage at 48-27 with 3:53 left on a three-point play by Pearson. After that, both teams emptied their benches.
Crist Olsen’s seven points paced Heritage.
Heritage 33, Van Buren 31 (Women’s)
On the cusp of ending an 11-game losing streak, Van Buren had a potential victory stolen.
Applying a full-court press in the last 10 minutes of the game, the Lady War Eagles forced 11 turnovers and turned a five-point deficit into a 7A/6A-West victory.
“Van Buren had the tempo in their favor, up to that point as well as the lead,” Heritage coach Kevin Ramey said. “I had thought about (pressing) and speeding up the game in the first half, but we could not make any shots. But we had to change the tempo somehow.”
Though the Lady War Eagles (7-14, 2-8) did get a couple of turnovers late in the third quarter, Van Buren got an easy layup and a couple of free throws to take its biggest lead of the game (26-21) going into the final quarter.
A Kaylee Sheppard 3-pointer kept Van Buren (5-17, 0-11) ahead 29-25 with 6:15 left, but the Lady Pointers only got two points the rest of the game.
Heritage got its first lead since early in the third quarter on two Ashley White free throws with 2:24 left for a 31-29 edge. The Lady Pointers answered with a drive by Danea Goodwin with 2:07 left to tie the game at 31-31.
Emily Jobst’s putback of a miss after another Van Buren turnover gave Heritage a 33-31 lead with 35 seconds left.
Van Buren held for the final shot, but Goodwin’s drive at the buzzer missed.
Emily Seiler scored 11 to lead the Lady War Eagles while Lani Snowden had nine to pace Van Buren.