Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SPORTS >> Abundant Life makes early statement


Abundant Life’s
Clark Eudy

looks for an open man
in a recent Owls game.

By JASON KING

Leader sportswriter

Abundant Life established itself as a threat to claim another 2-5A North Conference title with a 48-43 victory over Conway St. Joseph on Friday at the Abundant Life Schools gymnasium. The Owls (9-2, 1-0) swept the Bulldogs in three games last season before St. Joe went on to claim the 2A state championship. “Coach Brewer told me after the game they had us right where they wanted us,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “He said he hoped they were on their way to another state championship now that they got beat by us. “I don’t know if we can sweep them again. The familiarity between the two teams has made for a couple of ugly games.” The Owls led the entire way, but could never build a lead of over eight points. They had a chance to take a double-digit lead late in the second half, but a free-throw attempt did not produce points, and a quick three-point basket by the Bulldogs made it a five-point game. While it is early in the season, Ballard was already thinking about points scored and how they would affect a potential tiebreaker with the Bulldogs at the end of the year. “Points mean a lot against them,” Ballard said. “If it ends up being a split, that points difference will come into play, and I wanted us to have 10-plus points on them.” Senior post player Garrett Southerland led the Owls with 13 points. Cameron Slayton added 11 points, with 10 from George Herring to round out double- digit scoring. Point guard Mike Stramiello added nine points for Abundant Life. “Our people enjoyed it, and they had some unbelievably vocal fans,” Ballard said. “It was still an exciting game. We started the season off 3-5 last year, and we’re 9-2 right now. “We’re still not where we need to be, but if you compare where we were last year, we’re in a decent spot right now.” The game was fast paced with few fouls by either side in the first half, but both defenses were still strong. The tempo, with limited offensive opportunities, made it less of a shootout and more about who did the most with each possession, especially in the late going. “That first half went by in about 20 minutes,” Ballard said. “We had each other’s number; you knew exactly what was coming. “It takes everything you have to pull out a win over them. You have to use your entire playbook and even pull out the old barking dog trick play to get a win over them.” The Owls played a non-conference game at Pulaski Oak Grove on Monday night, and will begin play in the Searcy Bank Classic next week with a first-round game against 7A powerhouse North Little Rock. Abundant Life will resume league play on Dec. 1 when it travels to White County Central to take on the Bears, who are led by former Riverview coach Danny Starkey.