By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
GREERS FERRY – The West Side Eagles depended on their defense and opened the door to the Class 1A semifinals and an opportunity of earning a trip to the state championship game.
West Side (27-6) led from start to finish and defeated The New School (Fayetteville) 51-34 in Friday’s quarterfinals at Brady-Hipp Arena. The Eagles will meet Izard County at 1 p.m. Monday in the state semifinals.
“Congratulations for getting to the state semifinals,” West Side coach Keith Brown told his players after the game. “This is a good accomplishment. I’m very proud of them. The game turned into a defensive battle. I was pleased with our halfcourt defense. They (The New School) were averaging around 70 points a game, and we held them to 34 points.”
Travis Gentry led West Side with 16 points. Malachi Miller scored 14 points, and Nate Bittle came off the bench and contributed eight points. Michael Hardiman scored seven points for The New School.
The Eagles broke an early 2-2 tie by scoring nine unanswered points and never trailed. West Side led by as much as 14 points during the first quarter. The Eagles started the second quarter with a 20-7 lead.
Defense dominated on both sides as West Side scored seven points and held The New School to six points on the way to a 27-13 halftime lead.
“We got off to a quick start and would have liked if we had extended it,” Brown said. “The New School is a good team or it would not have advanced to the quarterfinals. They were 37-4 on the season.”
West Side increased its advantage during the third quarter, but it never could pull away. The Eagles took a 39-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We controlled the game and made shots when needed,” Brown said. “We did play with a lot of patience and tried to take what they were giving us. Defense was the difference. We played good man defense and did a good job of helping each other.”
Brown said another key to the win was the Eagles were able to control the inside.
“We also rebounded well,” he said. “When we rebound well, I knew everything would be fine for us. We were able to get the ball inside and got them into early foul trouble. We wanted to pound it inside.”
The New School 7 6 8 13–34
West Side 20 7 12 12–51
The New School scorers — Michael Hardiman 7, William Sturner 6, Holden Blankenship 6, Evan Goodman 5, Gunner Husnian 3, Max Warford 3, Quintus McNeal 3, Vontae Rimsey 1.
West Side scorers — Travis Gentry 16, Malachi Miller 14, Nate Bittle 8, Brenton Knapp 6, Jake Ballard 5, Zach Birmingham 2.