photo by VONDA NORWOOD
Van Buren senior Bradley Eversole tries for the basket in Tuesday’s 7A/6A West Conference win at Rogers Heritage.
ROGERS — Van Buren proved to be too tall an order for Rogers Heritage to deal with Tuesday night.
The Pointers used the inside-outside combination of Mitchell Smith and Jason Harms to overpower Heritage 54-39 in 7A/6A-West conference basketball at War Eagle Arena.
Smith, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, poured in 28 points, including four dunks, while Harms added 16, including four 3-pointers as Van Buren (13-2, 3-1) built a 21-9 halftime lead and held off a fourth-quarter charge.
Heritage (10-7, 0-4) sliced the Van Buren lead to eight with a little more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Pointers elected to spread the floor, which they converted to easy baskets and made free throws to pull away.
Van Buren coach Randy Loyd said he doesn’t have a one-man show even though Smith gets a lot of attention.
“We’ve got a big one inside that can score,” Loyd said. “But we’ve got guards who can shoot and guards that can get to the basket. We’ve got a pretty good team going right now. Hopefully, we can keep it up. This is a special group.
“If we can get in the right spots and make the right passes, which they normally do, we got some easy ones when we spread out and they had to come get us. Guard play was good tonight. Everything was good tonight. Defensively, that’s the second straight game we’ve held an opponent under 40 points.”
Heritage got off to a horrible start and never really recovered. But losing sophomore point guard Dane Olsen to an ankle injury in warm-ups and junior Connor Hirsh getting two quick fouls were really not the start War Eagles coach Tom Olsen wanted.
“We struggled tonight, offensively we’ve been executing and just clicking pretty well,” Tom Olsen said. “Van Buren’s a good defensive team, but not having Dane was catastrophic. He just sort of runs the show and his little ankle injury really bothered us.”
“It was really a fluke thing. He came down on someone’s foot in warm-ups and then Connor gets two fouls. We’re just trying to get to the second half.”
Hirsh finished with a team-high 16 points for Heritage, despite playing sparingly in the the first half. Crist Olsen chipped in 13.
Heritage 46, Van Buren 37 (Women’s)
Rogers Heritage got off to a strong start to take an early lead against Van Buren on Tuesday night, but Ashley White helped finish off the Lady War Eagles’ first win of 2014.
White scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half to help Heritage hold off a few late Van Buren charges to claim the 46-37 7A/6A-West Conference win at War Eagle Arena.
“Ashley White was huge,” Lady War Eagles coach Kevin Ramey said. “Another unsung hero for us was Sara Giesen, who scored well for us and she was about as sick as I was. She felt horrible, but played really well.
“We wanted Ashley in there for her defense against their big girl, but what she did offensively was tremendous. She did a good job defensively, but she had some big plays and it great that our girls were looking for her inside there.”
Snapping a four-game losing streak also felt good, Ramey said.
“It feels like it’s been forever since we’ve won one,” Ramey said. “It’s only been four games, but it’s been two and a half, three weeks. It was December 29. So that was good for some momentum. We feel like we’ve been close even though the scores don’t really look like it.”
Giesen and White tied for game scoring honors 12 points each, but Giesen had nine in the first half as the Lady War Eagles (5-9, 1-3 7A/6A-West) built a 25-17 halftime lead.
“We talked about how important it is on our home floor to get off to a strong start,” Ramey said. “We always talk to our starters about set the tempo, set the pace and I thought we did that. Every time they got within five or six, we’d make a bucket and stretch it out.”
Van Buren (5-10, 0-4) pulled within 38-33 with 2 minutes, 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but White had the answer.
The 5-foot-9 senior, who hasn’t played many varsity minutes this season, took a feed from Gina Britton, then another from Emily Seiler for layups to push the Lady War Eagles’ lead back to nine with less the two minutes to play in regulation.
Van Buren coach Merrill Mankin said his team, which starts two freshman and a sophomore, struggle to match up physically.
“We’re just so young,” Mankin said. “The physical part of the game hurts us. But they’ll get better.”