HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Hot Springs boys coach Antoni Lasker offered no excuses Tuesday night after the Trojans’ 64-59 home court loss to Lake Hamilton.
Local basketball fans had already heard about all-stater Caleb Campbell transferring to Lakeside, and 6-7 postman Jabari West is a victim of COVID-19 protocol. Then there was the fact Hot Springs hadn’t played in three weeks because of the virus.
“We’re not making any excuses,” said Lasker, whose team was considered a title threat two months ago. “We’re going to have a ‘next man up’ mentality. That’s what we believe in as a program, and it remains the same no matter whose on the floor. It would have been nice to have those two guys tonight. I believe if we had showed up in the first half we would have a different result.
Lasker impressed with Lake Hamilton
“Hats off to Lake Hamilton. Coach (Scotty) Pennington does a great job with his kids. They busted us in the mouth, and it took us a half to respond. We’ve got a young group, a lot of sophomores who responded. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and competing against White Hall on Friday.”
The Trojans started four sophomores, while Lake Hamilton (9-5, 2-1) started three juniors and two sophomores.
It was sophomore Zac Pennington (coach’s son) who put the Wolves on pace to build a 36-21 lead in the first half. He scored nine of his 13 points in the first quarter. Lake Hamilton outscored the host team 23-11 in the second quarter, with 6-4 post Chase Jessup being a major contributor. Jessup finished the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds, but missed a lot of the second half because of foul trouble. That fact helped Hot Springs cut a 19-point deficit to three points in the final quarter.
“When Chase went out it hurt us,” said Coach Pennington. “He’s our one big who can rebound and defend the middle. I give credit to Hot Springs. They got down twenty, and could have laid down. Instead they kept battling without those two big players.
Pennington not satisfied with win
“It was ugly for us. We’ve got to learn how to finish out games better than tonight. We turned the ball over way too much in the second half. We wasted a lot of opportunities against their press by missing layups. It was a conference win at Hot Springs, which you don’t see very often, and we’ll take it. I coached at Hot Springs and know how difficult it is to win here.”
Jessup and Pennington played well, but the individual standout for the Wolves had to be K.J. McDaniel. He scored eight of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter. McDaniel swished a pair of treys in the final minutes to stall the Trojans’ rally.
Dante Grayer and Bino Stephens helped Hot Springs rally in the second half. Grayer scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, while Stephens poured in eight of his 12 in the third period. Naser Hannah led the Trojans with 14 points, while Jayveon Felton contributed 12.
The Trojans will be back in action Friday at White Hall.