RUSSELLVILLE -- A hard-fought battle between Hot Springs and Marion came down to the final moments as the Class 5A defending state champion Patriots inched past the Trojans for a 69-65 win in the quarterfinal round Friday night at Cyclone Arena.
With a 51-46 lead at the end of the third quarter, Hot Springs (25-6) surrendered a quick 6-0 run kickstarted by Marion senior Detrick Reeves Jr., a three-star recruit, with a bucket from the inside for a 52-51 Patriot edge. Junior Caleb Campbell responded with a pair of free throws followed by a 3-point shot moments later that pushed the Trojans ahead 55-52 before Marion (16-13) bullied back to pull within 1.
Campbell took a step back and drained a short jumper, and Reeves answered with a trey that knotted the spread 57-all with 3:23 left in the game. Hot Springs 6-8 sophomore Jabari West turned up the heat and slammed in an alley-oop pass from senior Santiair Thomas coming out of a Trojans' timeout.
Hot Springs remained within striking distance as Thomas knocked in a putback for a 62-60 edge, and despite West coming up big on a layup with 20.7 seconds to play, the Patriots' offensive attack never relented as Marion hit back-to-back conversions from the free throw line before Reeves sealed a 40-point night with two final free throws to secure the win.
"It's a tough loss," admitted Hot Springs head coach Antoni Lasker. "We had aspirations on winning the state championship, and we never wavered from those aspirations. ... We ran up against a good opponent and they stopped that, but like we told the guys [and] our senior class, they've done a lot. They've won two conference championships; they won a bunch of basketball games -- probably close to 100 games in their careers, and they're gonna go be great young men, fathers, husbands [and] athletes. We've got a lot of guys going to play football, basketball at the next level. ... To our juniors, sophomores and freshman, we told them to take some time off and get back to work, so that we don't feel this way again next year."
Marion head coach David Clark had nothing but praise toward the Trojans.
"First off, hats off to Hot Springs. They have one incredible team and an incredible program," he said. "I think they won like 23 games in a row. ... Same thing last year with Lake Hamilton. They had it going; they had a great program and had not lost at home in like 50 games. So hats off to them first of all."
Marion capitalized early into the first eight minutes of the game with multiple playmakers finding the rim highlighted by senior Makyi Boyce's trey two minutes in. Hot Springs found its rhythm soon after as senior Latrell Ellis buried a perimeter shot with Campbell on the assist to pull within 7-3.
A trade of back-and-forth baskets came to a halt when West brought down the house on a big block before Boyce pulled down a rebound on the Trojans' next drive and went coast-to-coast for a layup at the four-minute mark, stretching the gap out to 13-5 before Trojan junior point guard J.J. Walker set the tone and cut up the middle for a 2-point bucket.
Senior Kaleb Hughley kept the swing of momentum going as the senior nabbed a steal for a layup with 15 seconds to go, and Marion junior Darrius Waterford answered in kind for a 19-11 Patriot lead going into the second.
"We just wanted to play defense and wanted to get after them," Clark said. "We know they're a very explosive team on offense. Caleb Campbell had a great game, and he played great like he should, but we got a kid just as well that can play. ... Hats off to them, and hats off to us. It was a great basketball game all the way."
Key defensive work by both opponents generated big offensive plays that kept the spread within reach as the Trojans trailed Marion 35-29 at intermission following 3-pointers from Ellis and Campbell with 60 seconds remaining.
"The motivation was to try to go play and have another opportunity to win a state championship," Lasker said. "We feel like we've been overlooked all year, and I feel like those guys came out and competed against a very good veteran and experienced Marion team. And I think we showed the state that Hot Springs is here to stay, and we're gonna be a force to [be] reckoned with for years to come."
A different Trojan team exited the locker room with West breaking out a bucket early, followed by Walker's rebound and cross-court drive for a pull-up 3 to knot the score 2:30 into the third. After a pair of shots from Reeves at the free throw line, the Trojans hit a 9-2 spurt capped by a 3-point play by Campbell for a 44-39 advantage with 3:20 to play.
Marion countered behind Reeves' 3 before West secured a 3-0 stretch with 30 seconds left, pushing Hot Springs ahead by a 5-point edge going into the final eight minutes.
"Detrick Reeves is probably the best basketball player in the state of Arkansas," Clark noted of the senior who has seven Division I offers on the table. "We play in east Arkansas, so a lot of people don't get a chance to see him, but he's been killing everybody all year long, and that's just what he does. He scores the basketball; he's a great player and a level-headed kid and has a bright future."
Campbell paved the way for the Trojans' offensive effort with 21 points while dishing out six assists and six rebounds, Thomas finished with 13 points and four rebounds, and West added 13 points while leading Hot Springs' defense with seven rebounds and three big blocks. Walker tallied 8 points, six assists and one rebound, and Ellis had 6 points, two boards and one steal. Hughley added 2 points and a steal, and junior forward Adrian Conway rounded out the Trojans' scoring with 2.
Marion will play the winner of Friday's late game between Jacksonville and Greene County Tech tonight at 7:30 p.m.Sports on 03/07/2020