Russellville eliminates young Trojan team from 5A State Tournament

Hot Springs senior J.J. Walker (5) scoops in two points Tuesday against Russellville in the 5A State Tournament at Trojan Arena.


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – It was a bitter-sweet ending for the young Hot Springs Trojans’ basketball season Tuesday at the Trojan Arena. Russellville pulled away in the final minutes to eliminate the Trojans from the 5A State Tournament, 71-54.

Hot Springs had rallied within five points early in the fourth quarter. The possibility of an upset disappeared as the Cyclones went on a 9-0 run. It was the outside shooting of Donyae May, Gayson Sims and Trey Allen. Sims had six 3-pointers for 18 points, and May shared scoring honors with Allen at 20 points.

“Russellville shot the ball very, very well,” said Hot Springs coach Antoni Lasker. “When a team shoots like that, we’re not doing our job of getting up on them. Russellvile had a good game plan trying to keep Jabari (West) from getting the ball. I have to do a better job of finding ways for him to be more successful on the floor.”

Trojans’ center Jabari West shoots over Russellville’s Sayvion Brock (11).

Russellville gets physical with Trojans

It was a physical game from the opening tip. There were double fouls called twice in the first quarter, and a technical on the Cyclones. Hot Springs’ senior guard J.J. Walker received two of those fouls midway through the first quarter, and didn’t play again until the second half. Walker did not score in the first half, and neither did the 6-7 West.

West did make his presence known with 11 rebounds and 7 blocks. He scored nine points in the final two quarters, while Walker poured in a team-high 14 during the final 16 minutes.

“We were only down six points (33-27) at halftime with Jabari not scoring, and J.J. on the bench,” said Lasker. “We didn’t play well in the second half. The Trojans were not moving when we needed to move. Russellville played a lot harder than we did, and they wanted it a little bit more. We’ve got to continue to grow and get better in the off-season.”


Trojans’ coach proud of his young team

Lasker also heaped praise on his young club.

“Nobody expected us to be playing in the state tournament with the things that happened to us this season,” he said. “I’m proud of these guys. I just wish we would have given a better showing than we did today.”

The Trojans led three times in the game. Adrian Conway scored the game’s first points with West getting an assist. Nasir Hannah’s 3-pointer with 6:25 left in the second quarter put Hot Springs on top, 20-18. Bino Stephens buried a trey with 3:25 left to give the Trojans’ their last lead, 24-23. A couple of bombs by Sims put Russellville out front for good.

Lake Hamilton and Lakeside’s boys will be in action Wednesday. The Wolves play Vilonia at 1 p.m., while the Rams clash with Mountain Home at 7 p.m.

In other tournaments Tuesday, Caddo Hills beat Mansfield in the 2A tournament, 58-40. Nevada got past Ridgefield Christian in the A tournament, 60-51.