Harding Academy basketball coach Brad Frances just wanted his team to have a fair shot to win the game and junior guard Eli Wallis gave his coach and his teammates exactly what they needed against Pangburn at Harding University’s Rhodes-Reaves Field House.
Wallis took the shot for the Wildcats for the lead for the final 8.9 seconds of the game and that sealed a 61-58 victory over Pangburn and their second conference victory of the season.
“We put him in for that shot. We felt like we would get that shot,” Francis said. “Get the shot to the rim, that was the best shot and he is the best person for that shot. And I was really OK with that shot.”
The ball movement for the shot was executed well by the Wildcats as they continued to work the ball around the Tigers’ defense and did not panic. They made every pass crisply and on target until they had the Tigers’ defense overloaded with Wallis waiting in the corner because he was ready for the shot.
Wallis lifted himself into the air and he let the ball go over the outstretched arms of the Pangburn defense. Everybody on the floor waited for the ball to find the target except for Wallis, who went to his defensive spot on the floor.
“We had good ball movement, we got what we wanted, so we got to live with that,” Francis said. “Make it if we miss but fortunately, he made the shot.”
Wallis finished with six points for the game. His teammate, senior guard Ty Dugger, led all of the Wildcats with 15 points and senior Caden Sipe chipped in with 14 points for Harding Academy.
In the first half of the game, Pangburn’s perimeter game found the Wildcats’ defense sagging and the Tigers took advantage of the opportunity and scored 20 points in the second quarter. The offense for the Tigers was led by senior Tanner Gaylan scoring six points in the quarter. He finished the game with 10 points.
Pangburn found its offense by playing a good and a solid man-to-man defense in the first half that slowed down the offense for the Wildcats. That style of defense played by the Tigers forced Harding Academy to rush into taking some bad shots, missing the basket, and that created an opportunity for the Tigers to shoot the ball beyond the three-point arc.
Pangburn senior Brenden Grayum finished the game leading all scorers with 23 points, and eight rebounds for his team. Tigers senior point guard Luke Rolland scored 14 points for his team, including going 5 of 6 at the free throw line.
“In the first half, we executed the game plan very well and coach Francis is a really good coach and he made some good adjustments in the second half,” Pangburn coach Ben Jones said. “We were not prepared well enough for it and so they took the momentum and took control of it at the end and we didn’t make enough plays at the end that matter.”
Jones was pleased about his team’s performance in the second quarter. He felt that his team was prepared for the Wildcats then and the game plan was well executed.
After making the adjustments to the game plan, Harding Academy came out in the second half and took control of the game’s tempo by pressing Pangburn and attacking the ball, forcing what Jones described as uncommon and uncharacteristic turnover made by players that don’t turn the ball over.
Francis said that he talked to his team about giving up 38 points in the first half and that his team does not and cannot do that and so they needed to step up and play better defense and in the second half, The defense for the Wildcats only allowed 20 points for the half.
“In the third and fourth quarter, it got away from us, We lost confidence,” Jones said. “The momentum just went their way. Our offensive struggles started to affect us on the defensive side and that is something that just can’t happen.”