Struggling to find a rhythm offensively, Hot Springs rode its defense to a win over visiting Magnolia Tuesday night at Trojan Fieldhouse.
Trailing 30-27 after three quarters, the Trojans held Magnolia to just four points in the fourth and forced a steal on the game's final possession to escape with a 35-34 win.
"Any time you hold a team to 34 points in a high school game, it says a lot about our defense," Hot Springs coach Rodney Echols said. "When you're playing seven sophomores, one freshman and two seniors, there's going to be some moments where we're going to have a hard time scoring and we'll rely on our defense."
The Panthers held a 31-27 lead early in the fourth after a basket by Kadyn Roach before Hot Springs made its run. Santiar Thomas scored four points while Payton Hayes and J.J. Walker each scored two points to give the Trojans a 35-34 advantage with 1:20 remaining.
Taking over after a missed free throw by the Trojans, Magnolia had a chance to take the lead with less than 15 seconds to play. Following a timeout, the Panthers got the ball to their play-maker before Thomas came up with a steal to secure the win for Hot Springs.
"We wanted to trap Roach on that last play of the game," Echols said. "If he came off a pick-and-roll, we were going to trap him, and that's exactly what we did. He kicked it to the guy we knew he was going to kick it to, and we were able to force a turnover. That was big for us. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss any day."
The Trojans took an early 10-2 lead in the first quarter as Hayes connected on two 3-pointers. The senior buried another shot from behind the arc in the second, finishing with 11 points in the first half to give Hot Springs a 19-12 lead.
"We expect for him to be a scorer for us," Echols said. "Last game he hit five threes, and he got us off to a great start in this game. It was hard for him to get his shot in the second half and he forced some shots, but he's going to have to play the scoring role."
A 3-pointer by Walker gave the Trojans a 22-15 lead early in the third quarter before the Panthers caught fire. Roach, J'amico Cornelious and Brendin Chambliss combined for 15 points in the third as Magnolia rode an 11-2 run to a 30-27 lead entering the final frame.
"I thought we were relaxed coming out after halftime, and the message was to turn up the defensive intensity," said Echols. "They bought into making plays and getting stops in that fourth quarter, and that was the key. We held them to four points in the fourth quarter and that was big for us."
Hayes led all scorers with 15 points while Thomas finished with eight points and Walker had seven. Roach paced Magnolia with 13 points.
The Trojans (2-0) will face Sylvan Hills at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Morrilton at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Trojan Hoopfest at Trojan Fieldhouse.
"This team is young and they have to learn, but they're going to be battle-tested when February comes," Echols said. "They just have to keep churning every day, get better and rely on each other."
Sports on 11/30/2017
Print Headline: Late stop lifts Troy, 35-34