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Trojans triumph in 5A-South conference tournament opener

by James Leigh The Sentinel-Record | February 20, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.
The Sentinel-Record/Grace Brown TOP SEED: Hot Springs' Santiair Thomas (1) rises for a dunk against De Queen's Mack Carver Monday during the Trojans' opening 84-48 victory in the 5A-South conference tournament at Trojan Fieldhouse. Thomas led Hot Springs with 31 points and 12 rebounds.

Hot Springs got off to a strong start and never relented as the Trojans rolled to an 84-48 victory over De Queen in the opening round of the 5A-South district tournament Monday at Trojan Fieldhouse.

Santiair Thomas put up 25 points of his 31 points in the first half as the Trojans (20-11) rolled to a 49-26 halftime lead.

The Trojans put up four quick points before the Leopards (2-24) managed to hit a 3-pointer to pull within one with 6:55 remaining in the opening quarter. Hot Springs then went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-3 lead at the 4:45 mark.

"We got off to a pretty good start," said Hot Springs head coach Rodney Echols. "We knocked down shots. We missed a ton of free throws, which can always come back to bite us.

"I thought we shot the ball fairly well. We scored quite a bit in transition, which helps us. It sets up our press quite a bit. We're pretty good on the defensive end. De Queen knocked down an enormous amount of threes. They did a good job of knocking down those shots."

The Trojans increased their advantage to 17-5 by the 2:26 mark, but the Leopards went on a 5-0 run to pull within 17-10 by the 1:18 mark. The Trojans closed out the period on a 6-3 run to take a 23-13 lead into the second.

Hot Springs jumped out in the second with an 8-0 run after the Leopards hit a trey just 27 seconds into the period to take a 31-16 lead. The two teams traded shots for much of the period before the Trojans hit an 8-2 run to stretch out to a 42-26 lead with 2:05 to go.

The hosts then held De Queen scoreless for the remainder of the half as they closed out with a 7-0 run to take a 49-26 lead into the locker room.

Hot Springs came out of the break hot, adding four points with just 35 seconds off the clock to make it 53-26. De Queen pulled within 63-38 by the 3:31 mark, but the Trojans used a 12-4 run to close out the period with a 75-42 lead.

With a 30-plus point lead going into the final period, the Arkansas Activities Association's Mercy Rule went into effect, setting the clock into motion without stopping.

The Trojans continued to dominate, putting up nine points, while allowing six to secure the win.

Thomas picked up a double-double with 12 rebounds in addition to his 31 points, while grabbing four steals.

"We wanted to get the ball inside to him tonight and allow him to have some scoring opportunities," Echols said. "He answered that with a big exclamation point with 31 and 12.

"For him to be able to go inside and score and score in transition, and he shot it pretty well from the free throw line, that is a big sign for us on the latter part of the season for him to be able to step in and give us a scoring output like that tonight."

Payton Hayes added 12 points with three rebounds. Ramello Cason had eight with three boards.

"Mello, he played big," Echols said. "He got some key offensive rebounds for us. He started us on the break well. For guys that have 31 games under their belts, to step up during this time and give us the effort, we need that to continue to play at a high level."

Hunter Earney paced the Leopards with 14 points and two assists. Weston Harp added 11.

The Trojans shot 43 percent from the field, but they struggled from distance, hitting just 2 of 11 for 18 percent. Hot Springs also won the turnover battle, stealing the ball 15 times, while turning the ball over just five times.

Hot Springs will play again on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. against the winner of today's game between Lakeside (8-17, 7-11) and Camden Fairview (12-13, 6-10).

Sports on 02/20/2018

Print Headline: Trojans triumph in 5A-South conference tournament opener

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