Siloam Springs Herald Leader

Lady Panthers rally from slow start

- By Graham Thomas

RUSSELLVIL­LE — Siloam Springs’ girls basketball team didn’t get off to a great start in its game at Russellvil­le on Friday, but the Lady Panthers sure enjoyed how it finished.

The Lady Panthers rallied from a 21-8 deficit in the first half and outscored the Lady Cyclones 43-21 the rest of the way in a 51-42 victory inside Cyclone Arena.

Siloam Springs, which trailed 16-5 after the first quarter, managed to cut the Russellvil­le lead to 23-21 by halftime, aided by a 13-2 run at the end of the half.

“I know whenever we’re down, we always go back into the locker room, and we try to give ourselves energy,” said junior Emily Keehn, who scored a career-high 23 points in the win. “We just know that we have to get ourselves back up, because we knew we had a chance to win this game from the start, no matter how far we got down. We knew we had to give ourselves energy again and push through the hard times.”

Keehn and senior guard Sophie Stephenson gave the Lady Panthers (11-8, 4-1) the spark they needed in the second quarter.

Stephenson opened the second quarter with a jump shot to make it 16-7.

Russellvil­le extended its lead to 21-8 after a basket by 6-2 post Taleigha Ealy, but Stephenson answered with a 3-pointer in the corner to make it 21-11.

Keehn had a basket inside to cut the lead to eight, and Stephenson hit another three-pointer in the corner to cut the lead to 21-16.

“We call her ‘Splash,’” Keehn said of Stephenson, who scored all eight of her points in the second quarter. “She does that for our game. She’s a very important factor. We need that. She can come in there and knock down those important shots.”

Russellvil­le was no-guarding Keehn and Stephenson in the first half, and the Lady Panthers tried to stay in the flow of their offense rather than jacking up quick 3-pointers, even if they were wide open.

“Early on it was one pass and shoot it, which for a shooter is tough unless you’re a D-I crazy good level,” said Siloam Springs coach Beau Tillery. “We just tried to emphasize move the ball a little bit, let those threes we’re shooting from Keehn, Sophie and Anna (Wleklinski) be a little more in rhythm, a little later in the shot clock so it’s not one pass and jack. Again as soon as we did that Sophie got hot for two to three shots and it was needed.”

Zariyah Willis answered with a basket for the Lady Cyclones to make it 23-16, but wouldn’t score again the rest of the half.

Brooke Smith hit a jump shot and Keehn hit a 3-pointer in the corner to pull to the Lady Panthers within 23-21 at halftime.

Tillery said the Lady Panthers came into halftime knowing the job wasn’t done.

“We knew it was going to be a scrap,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be a runaway in the third like some of the games have been.”

Keehn opened the second half with a 3-pointer on the wing to give Siloam Springs its first lead 24-23.

Russellvil­le’s Ealy and Willis scored two straight buckets to go up 27-24, but the Lady Panthers answered in a big way.

Brooke Ross got her first basket of the game on a putback and Brooke Smith had a steal and score and was fouled.

Keehn and Wleklinski scored back-to-back baskets as Siloam

Springs went up 32-29.

Ross scored inside and Smith added another basket as the Lady Panthers went up 36-33 at the end of the third quarter.

Russellvil­le pulled within 36-35 to open the fourth quarter, but Keehn answered with an easy basket inside. She added another layup with 5:06 remaining for a 40-35 lead.

Brooke Ross swished a jumper for a 42-35 lead. Keehn knocked down her fourth 3-pointer of the quarter to make it 45-38.

Back-to-back inside baskets by Smith and Keehn gave Siloam Springs its largest lead at 49-38 with 1:48 left.

Faith Ellis later knocked down a pair of free throws with 24.6 left to give Siloam Springs a 51-40 lead.

After scoring 11 points in the first quarter, Siloam Springs didn’t allow Russellvil­le guard Brenna Burk to score the rest of the game.

Ealy led the Lady Cyclones (165, 3-2) with 15 points, while Willis added 10.

“We just knew (Ealy), when she’s not in foul trouble, is a load,” Tillery said. “Even if you’re in position she finds a way to catch the ball. She almost fell to her knees one time and was athletic enough to raise to her feet and still finish. Then (Burk) is as slippery and shifty as any guard in the league and really hard to stay in front of.

Siloam Springs 63, Greenwood 60

The Panthers made just enough plays to hold off a resilient Greenwood bunch for a 63-60 win over the Bulldogs inside Panther Activity Center on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Siloam Springs, which led by 12 points in the third quarter, could never put Greenwood away, as the Bulldogs trimmed the lead down to 59-56 in the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer from Landon Robbins, one of 10 3-pointers made on the day by Greenwood.

Nate Vachon and Nathan Hawbaker each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute as Siloam Springs went back up 63-57.

Greenwood’s Aiden Kennon splashed one final three in the closing seconds to set the final score.

Coach Tim Stewart said it was a typical 5A-West Conference battle.

“Super physical, Donnie does a great job,” Stewart said, referencin­g Greenwood coach Donnie Husband. “They had a good scheme and they hit a lot of threes. That wasn’t the scouting report coming into the game but we’re at the point now where we expect it from every team. It’s going to be a dog fight. It was again. We have a lot of areas we need to improve on and show growth, but I was proud of the kids for battling and hanging on when the momentum had clearly shifted to Greenwood.”

The Panthers rode a careerhigh 29 points from Nate Vachon, who hit five 3-pointers and knocked down eight of eight from the free-throw line.

“His motor has been just really, really good,” Stewart said of Vachon. “We’re super proud of how hard he’s playing and still learning things every game. You can tell he’s in a good place and wants to learn. He wants to get better. Obviously we know he can shoot but it’s all those other things that are making a big difference for us, the rebounds, the tips, the taking charges. He took two charges tonight with his 29 points. That’s a big deal. Super proud of him.”

Vachon had 18 of his points in the second half, including a rare four-point play in the fourth quarter.

“Nate was great,” Husband said. “He’s always been a good player for them. He’s always been really hard to guard. He shot the ball exceptiona­lly well tonight. That’s the problem when you play zone. You can open it up for one guy to really hurt you. We’ve kind of committed to doing that. We had a couple of bad breaks. Ball bounced out of our hands, bounced to him for an and-one. We lost him a couple of times, but at the same time, it’s credit to him. Those are tough shots. He knocked them down.”

Dalton Newman scored Siloam Springs’ first five points and Vachon hit two 3-pointers in the opening quarter but Siloam Springs trailed Greenwood for most of the first eight minutes of play.

Levi Fox banked in a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to give Siloam Springs a 20-18 lead after one.

With the game tied 25-25 in the second, Newman hit a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 28-25 lead and Wilson Cunningham scored on Siloam Springs’ next possession for a 30-25 lead at halftime.

Siloam Springs opened its largest lead in the third quarter.

Newman knocked down a 3-pointer on the wing for a 40-29 lead with 3:13 left in the third and Vachon scored on a scoop shot, was fouled and completed the three-point play for a 43-31 lead with 2:27 remaining.

The Panthers led 46-38 after Greenwood’s Braden Bollman hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third.

It got even closer in the fourth, especially after Newman fouled out early in the final quarter. He finished with 15 points.

“Dalton fouled out too early,” Stewart said. “We didn’t do a good job with that. He’s a big part of everything.”

Greenwood finished with four players in double figures, led by Kennon’s 14 points. Bollman and Dawson Holt each had 13 points, while Landen Robbins had 10.

It was another tough conference loss for the Bulldogs, who dropped to 5-13 and 0-4 in the league.

“We’ve been right there,” Husband said. “We had opportunit­ies. We just can’t get over the hump for whatever reason. We can’t get one shot to fall or one crucial rebound or whatever it is. We just can’t get that one thing. We feel a little bit snakebit right now but to our kids’ credit they’re not hanging their head. They’re continuing to battle and work hard and we’re continuing trying to improve and get healthier and get a couple of guys back. I think it will make a difference.”

Fox added eight points for Siloam Springs, while Jaxson Spence and Wilson Cunningham each had four, Hawbaker two and Cam Blackfox one.

 ?? Mark Ross/Special to the Herald-Leader ?? Siloam Springs junior Emily Keehn launches a 3-pointer against Russellvil­le on Friday, Jan. 20. Keehn scored a career-high 23 points in the Lady Panthers’ 51-42 victory.
Mark Ross/Special to the Herald-Leader Siloam Springs junior Emily Keehn launches a 3-pointer against Russellvil­le on Friday, Jan. 20. Keehn scored a career-high 23 points in the Lady Panthers’ 51-42 victory.
 ?? Mark Ross/Special to the Herald-Leader ?? Siloam Springs senior Wilson Cunningham drives to the basket against Greenwood on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Siloam Springs defeated Greenwood 63-60.
Mark Ross/Special to the Herald-Leader Siloam Springs senior Wilson Cunningham drives to the basket against Greenwood on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Siloam Springs defeated Greenwood 63-60.

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