VILONIA — Vilonia’s senior girls turned by an aggressive challenge by Greenbrier, went to 17-1 and took full command of the 5A-West race with a 46-28 victory here Tuesday night.

Ask supporters and coaches how and why the Lady Eagles are 17-1 and they’ll scratch their heads.

This is not a team that will cause anxiety in watching them warm up.

The Lady Eagles have no single star, no one can point to who might go off any night or you have to stop. The whole is certainly better than the sum of their parts.

Some folks can point to a team or group of players in junior high that have a label of special or greatness when they reach senior high.

That doesn’t necessarily apply to this spunky group of Lady Eagles. Vilonia graduated five players from a very good team that was a play or two away from the 5A semifinals last year. They returned one starter and another who received some degree of playing time.

"We’re not one of those flashy, pressing teams that will catch your eye," said Eagle coach Alvin Riley. "I’d like to press but we just don’t have that type of team and you have to play to your strengths. We play solid halfcourt defense, we shoot the ball pretty well and we play together pretty well."

The Lady Eagles turned a close game Tuesday night by switching from a man defense to a zone.

"We like to play man, but the zone was working, so we stayed with it," he said. "We’re adaptable.

"All season, when a team has packed us inside, we have been able to go to the perimeter and hit the outside shot. When they come out on our shooters, like they did tonight, we’ve been able to score inside."

The Lady Eagles seem to have a strong sense of the pace they need to play to win. Although it doesn’t look like they can, they can really frustrate a team on defense. They play it with pride.

They are used to playing off the ropes. They are not fazed playing from behind. They won’t prompt many gasps of awe. They are just one of those spunky, well-coached teams that let the scoreboard and the record do the talking.

"Going into this season with what we lost, I really didn’t know what to expect, certainly not being 17-1 at this point," said Riley. "We have evolved into a solid basketball team."

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or