MAUMELLE — The Greenbrier Panthers' season ended Tuesday at the 5A state tournamen at the hands of the Hot Springs Trojans in a 61-49 loss at Maumelle High School.
Though the loss seems lopsided, the game was closer than the score indicates, especially down the stretch.
Down 18 points with 4:27 in the third quarter, the Panthers (21-12) stormed back to pull the deficit within eight with 1:41 left in the game.
However, Greenbrier pulled down four offensive rebounds on misses, but was not able to convert those into points. The Panthers also missed five free throws to close out the game, which could have resulted in a closer score, if not a Panther win.
Greenbrier coach Mike Simmons said the team was exhausted at the end of the game.
“Because we were exhausted, we couldn’t make our free throws,” he said. “If we had made those, it would have been more interesting.”
The Panthers fell behind early when the Trojans (24-11) started the game on an 11-3 run. Two of those baskets were off turnovers from Greenbrier inbounds plays.
Hot Springs applied fullcourt press defense, which caused several turnovers for the Panthers, which caused the team to fall behind by 17 at halftime.
“[The Trojans] are just a really good team,” Simmons said. “They did a good job in their halfcourt defense and forced us to take tough shots. They kind of shocked us with their speed in the first half to get up and down.
“I thought we could get used to their athleticism a lot quicker than we did. They are very athletic and they are definitely a good basketball team.”
Greenbrier eventually adjusted to the athleticism, but it came midway through the third quarter.
The Panthers outscored Hot Springs 24-21 in the second half, but five of the Trojans' points came at garbage time.
Greenbrier’s tandem of junior AJ Matthews and senior Devin Clark paced the Panther offense with 14 points.
Hot Springs had a pair in double figures, led by sophomore Santiair Thomas’s 13 points, followed by junior Eddie Miles’ 11.
Despite the loss, this year’s Greenbrier team won more than 20 games, something that hasn’t been done in more than a decade.
“We had a really good year,” Simmons said. “It always comes down to that last ballgame. I hate it for our seniors. I feel we could have had a chance to move on if we would have played a little bit better.
“Our seniors were a good group and won 20 ballgames for the first time in 15 years or so and a conference championship. It has been a really good year and a really good group of seniors.”
Six seniors played their final game with Greenbrier including: Dylan Wilson, Devin Clark, Steven Stewart, Austin Thomey, Grant Brown and Tanner Tilley.
Hot Springs will move on to the second round, facing the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Little Rock Christian and Blytheville.