Dif­fer­ent look for SSHS boys

■ The Pan­thers are short on height, ex­pe­ri­ence head­ing into the 2017-18 bas­ket­ball sea­son.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - By Gra­ham Thomas Staff Writer gth­omas@nwadg.com

The Siloam Springs boys bas­ket­ball team may have a bit of a dif­fer­ent look to it when the Pan­thers tip off their 2017-18 sea­son this week.

The Pan­thers, who have been blessed with some size and height in re­cent years, do not have a player taller than 6-foot-2 on this year’s ros­ter.

“The first thing you no­tice is that we don’t have a lot of height,” said head coach Tim Ste­wart, who is be­gin­ning his sixth sea­son at the helm of the pro­gram. “We’re work­ing on how we need to play and things that need to be habits to over­come a lack of height. The kids have re­sponded well.”

The Pan­thers played in an Arkansas Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion ben­e­fit game on Sat­ur­day at Huntsville. Re­sults were not avail­able at presstime. Siloam Springs opens the sea­son Tues­day at 7:30 p.m. at Rogers Her­itage.

Four of the Pan­thers’ top five scor­ers from last sea­son’s 10-19 team were lost to grad­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing lead­ing scor­ers Josh Hunt and Noah Karp, who both av­er­aged 11.1 points per game, Har­ri­son Kret­zer (10 ppg) and Char­lie Jones (8.1 ppg).

The Pan­thers re­turn se­nior for­ward Spencer Lash­ley and ju­nior guard Mur­phy Perkins, who both saw ex­ten­sive play­ing time a year ago. The rest of the re­turn­ing up­per class­men played mostly ju­nior var­sity min­utes with just a sprin­kle of var­sity time.

“We lost a big group of se­niors, which in­cluded the big three (scor­ers), which was the ma­jor­ity of our stats,” Ste­wart said. “Any­time you have that, it’s go­ing to be time for young kids to step up and fill the void.

“That’s part of the fun of high school bas­ket­ball, see­ing young kids ma­ture and take those roles. New kids come in and it never ceases to amaze how they step up.”

The Pan­thers have 13 sopho­mores on the ros­ter, sev­eral of whom are fight­ing for var­sity min­utes.

De­fen­sively, the Pan­thers will stick with their 3-2 zone de­fense that is rarely seen in high school bas­ket­ball and of­ten gives op­po­nents trou­ble. Of­fen­sively,

Ste­wart said the Pan­thers will of­ten play with five guards on the floor.

Lash­ley (6-2), who is the lead­ing re­turn­ing scorer at 7.1 points per game, will be asked to play a dif­fer­ent role than last year. Lash­ley is a tal­ented out­side shooter, but the Pan­thers will also need him to be a dom­i­nant force on the glass.

“He’s go­ing to have to be the big man on cam­pus,” Ste­wart said. “We’re look­ing for him to blos­som into an over­all player in­stead of just be­ing that 3-point shooter. That role ex­tends on the court to off the court, be­ing a ver­bal leader and a coach.”

Ste­wart said se­nior Diego Flores (5-9) has im­proved his over­all game and will han­dle some of the point guard re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at times.

“He can knock down shots and cre­ate his own shots,” Ste­wart said. “He has come into his own this year.”

Se­nior guard Tyler Pet­tit (5-10) pro­vides great lead­er­ship and is a good shooter, ca­pa­ble of knock­ing down the out­side shot, Ste­wart said.

Se­nior guard Sam Everett (6-0) has also im­proved and worked to be­come a bet­ter ath­lete. Ste­wart hopes Everett can play with great en­ergy and ef­fort and be a spark plug off the bench for the Pan­thers.

Se­nior for­ward Mar­quan Sor­rells (6-2) is one of sev­eral play­ers to join bas­ket­ball af­ter foot­ball sea­son ended. He played in 11 bas­ket­ball games for the var­sity as a fresh­man in 2014-15 and av­er­aged more than five points. He played in one game for Siloam Springs as a sopho­more and scored 16 points in a win against Gravette in 2015-16 be­fore mov­ing out of the district.

Sor­rells is a tal­ented player who can help the Pan­thers in many dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions, Ste­wart said.

“With him be­ing in foot­ball, it’s go­ing to take him a lit­tle time to get ac­cli­mated,” Ste­wart said. “He’s got the most length of any of our play­ers and can play a lot of po­si­tions on our de­fense.”

Perkins (5-11) will start at point guard for the Pan­thers af­ter play­ing a backup role as a sopho­more last sea­son.

“He’s really im­proved in the off­sea­son his abil­ity to score and knock down the open shot,” Ste­wart said of Perkins. “He’s tena­cious on de­fense and can really bother his man. He plays with great con­fi­dence and has been do­ing a great job of lead­ing our team by ex­am­ple.”

Ste­wart said ju­nior for­ward Ja­cob Wake­field (6-1) is the best ath­lete on the team and plays with great heart.

“He’s the best charge taker we have on the team,” he said. “The abil­ity to take a charge on de­fense is huge for us. He plays the bot­tom spot of our zone de­fense. We’re look­ing for him to ex­pand his of­fen­sive game through­out the sea­son.”

Ju­nior guard Kar­son Cle­ment (5-11) is one of the bet­ter shoot­ers the Pan­thers have and the Pan­thers need him to be a leader on and off the court, Ste­wart said.

Ju­nior Di­cen Bagsby moved into the district at the end of the sea­son and is a high en­ergy player who is still learn­ing the ins and outs of the Pan­thers’ pro­gram.

Sopho­mores Drew Va­chon (5-11), Jor­dan Ste­wart (6-0), Evan Sauer (5-9), Thad Wright (6-0), Gage Weaver (5-10), Jack­son Nor­berg (6-0) and Car­son Wlek­lin­ski (5-10) are among the sopho­mores who will be bat­tling for min­utes at the var­sity level.

“We have a large sopho­more group,” Ste­wart said. “There’s tal­ent within that group. That group has bonded really well with the up­per class­men. They have good chem­istry, but ev­ery­body that’s been around sports knows there’s a learn­ing curve in­volved with young play­ers. They’re work­ing hard to ad­just to the speed of game and phys­i­cal­ity. We look for that class to stay to­gether and do some good things at Siloam.”

Bud Sullins/Spe­cial to Siloam Sun­day

Siloam Springs se­nior Spencer Lash­ley shoots a 3-pointer against Green­wood in a game last sea­son. Lash­ley and the Pan­thers open the sea­son Tues­day at Rogers Her­itage.

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