Rebs battle to the wire
Don't show the fans you can do it, because they'll expect it every time.
That's the position the Highland Rebels find themselves in after a tremendous effort against the Blazers on Feb. 7 at Cooper Memorial Gymnasium.
Having gone "Oh-For-The-Season" struggling to shoot, struggling to control the ball and struggling to defend, Highland led Valley View, the number one team in the 3-4A, for three-and-a-half quarters before coming up short, 87-78.
However, Valley View had to score 39 points in the fourth to beat the Rebels.
"I keep preaching you've got to pick your defense up and get better looks at the basket," said Rebel Head Coach Chad Arnhart. "Our philosophy coming into the game is we wanted to slow it down a little bit and try to get them to chase us. Fortunately we were able to score right off the bat, get a little lead and then spread it out. The kids made some good decisions."
Fans could see flashes of possibilities during the Gosnell game at home on Feb. 6. Although they lost 57-37, the Rebs played with more discipline, but couldn't get enough shots to drop.
On the other hand, Hunter Mickelson and the Westside Warriors were too much for the Rebels at the Warrior Dome, cruising to a 65-36 victory on Feb 3.
The Lady Rebels (17-5, 11-1 4A-3) had to sustain a couple of second-half threats, but remained perfect since Christmas, picking up wins 11 and 12 for 2009 at Gosnell on Feb. 5 and at Trumann, 48-40, on Feb. 6, clinching at least a tie for the conference crown with two only two conference games left.
Against Valley View, the surging Highland Rebels were up 60-48 to start the final period.
Valley View had gained some momentum in the third by protecting the ball and hitting four treys. Senior Hunter Saffell scored 11 of his 27 points in the third.
Brad Harris started the fourth with a bucket-plus-one and it looked like the Rebels were going to control their emotions, along with the rest of the game.
However, when Highland was hitting two-point buckets, the Blazers started hitting 3s.
Saffell and Michael Rook combined for six fourth-quarter treys, while Dustin Jones added a seventh for good measure.
Valley View sent Highland to the free throw line on six of eight possessions near the end of the game. Landon Strobbe was a perfect 10-for-10 and Josh Honey sank both of his, but it kept the Rebels from wasting the clock or getting off 3s of their own.
The Blazers turned up the full-court pressure, which forced some errant Rebel passes to make matters worse.
Highland took the lead with two minutes gone in the first and gave it back with two minutes left in the fourth.
"I think we're getting better. I think our guys are getting a little pride about them and they're sick of getting beat 30 to 35 every game," explained Arnhart. "That's itching on them a little bit and I think they're taking a little pride in the way they play."
The Rebs used a 10-0 run in the first to take a 17-11 first period lead.
They added to that lead with a 9-2 run to take a 35-21 advantage into halftime.
The Blazers put together an 11-2 run, but Highland responded with an 8-0 run. Harris scored 13 of his game leading 30 points in the third quarter.
"He gives us strong body down low. He's able to maneuver a little bit and score in the paint," said Arnhart. "He's been our most consistent player all year. He's a pretty impressive sophomore. Tonight, he had a mismatch on the wing (against Cody Parish). He was able to catch it on the wing and get some drives to the basket."
This week, the Rebels have conference games against Newport and Pocahontas, along with a couple of non-conference contests, plus the district tournament is ahead. Hopefully, this game will lead to even better results.
"It ought to give us a boost. We were looking for a breakout game. I told them when we had to make up all these games at home; I think we have a chance of winning three or four ball games, if we just put some things together."
Strobbe and Honey scored 13 points apiece for the Rebels. Donnie French added 10.
Harris scored the first 14 points for Highland against Gosnell. Honey made the final two of the half with the Pirates up 36-16.
Gosnell's Deantre Scott started the third with two buckets before the Rebs went on a 9-0 run to cut the score to 40-25.
Harris finished with 17 points.
Four minutes had passed when Justin Bryant hit a trey to get Highland on the board against Westside. Five more points by Honey cut the score to 9-8, but the Warriors finished the first quarter up 17-8.
Michelson's 12 second-period points gave Westside 30-17 lead at halftime.
Strobbe came out of his shooting slump against the Warriors with four 3-pointers, including two in the third. Westside led 49-27 at the end of three.
Strobbe had 12 points for Highland, followed by seven for Honey and six from Brandon Ariola.
The Lady Rebels used a 14-7 first and a 12-4 second to secure a win against the Lady Wildcats.
Trumann didn't go quietly as it battled in the second half to give Highland a scare.
The Lady Wildcats outscored the Lady Rebs 12-10 in the third and 17-12 in the fourth.
Alex Isaacs had 15 points for Highland. Kristen Ellis and Alison Price contributed 11 and 10, respectively.