CARLISLE - It is hard to believe that Head Coach Mark Smith and the rest of the Bauxite Miners could have envisioned a better start to the season than what they have. Sitting at 7-4 overall is not bad, but an impressive 3-0 start in 7-4A conference play has the program smiling already this young season.
After thumping Pulaski Robinson 57-39 on Dec. 23 to stay perfect in conference play, the Miners took a few days off for the Christmas holiday before hitting the court once again in the Carlisle Holiday Classic. Set to play on Thursday, freezing temperatures, 10 inches of snow and no electricity bumped tournament play back to Friday, setting Bauxite up to battle DeWitt.
After not really being able to practice, the Miners came out strong, aggressive and shot the ball well to pull away with a big 54-33 win.
“We handled DeWitt’s pressure well,” Smith said. “They wanted to press us early and we did a good job of not turning the ball over. We came out in zone and were very aggressive inside and scored well in there.”
Bauxite wasted no time jumping out to a good lead. At the end of the first quarter, the Miners were staring at an 18-10 advantage. The second quarter consisted of much of the same. After a big push from guard Hunter Holder who hit three 3-pointers, the Miners were well on their way to another rout, up 36-16 at halftime.
“We told our guys that they could really put the game away in the first three minutes of the third quarter,” Smith said.
Ben Madison started the second half with a couple of steals and added a couple of easy layups to help propel the Miners to victory.
“Everyone played really well,” Smith said. “I thought the intensity was good, especially after being off from school. You always have to worry about getting out of your routine. These guys really played hard and determined.”
The Miners took a 30-point lead at the end of the third quarter and coasted to the end.
“Everyone that played really contributed,” Smith said.
Tyler Hill had a monster game inside, leading the Miners with 21 points. Madison added 12 while Holder contributed with nine of his own.
But the success didn’t stop there. On Saturday, the Miners returned to Carlisle to face Bald Knob. After a game that was not as crisp or precise as the first, the Miners still came away with a blowout victory, this one a 57-24 final.
“We started the game probably not as focused as Friday,” Smith said. “We started out a little bit sluggish.”
The Miners jumped out to a 16-3 first-quarter lead. It was the second that proved to be the breaking point for the Miners in the early going, allowing Bald Knob to come within nine at 24-15.
“It wasn’t that we weren’t playing hard, it’s the fact that we were missing shots around the rim and committing silly fouls,” Smith said.
For Bauxite, it was the third quarter that really set the tone for the rest of the game. At the end of three, Bauxite was up big.
“We shot the ball well, played really hard and executed really well and a lot better than we did in the first half,” Smith said.
After a strong second half, the Miners walked away with a 57-24 victory.
Hill put together another strong outing, leading the Miners again, this time with 19. Holder added 12 while Madison tallied nine in the final game.
Coming away with two wins during the break gives Bauxite some much-needed momentum heading into 2013.
“We were obviously hoping that we would be 3-0 in conference,” Smith said. “We knew we had a chance to be here. Obviously we played well in conference coming into the break. I think it gives us confidence that we might be able to really do something here. Who knows? We might lose the next three games, but I think we have a good core of guys here that really play well together and believe in each other and that’s what it takes.”
The Miners hit one of the toughest stretches of conference play later this week. Bauxite will battle with Malvern on Friday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
With the two wins in the Classic, the Miners moved their overall record to 9-4 on the year.
Hill ended the weekend with two-game total of 40 points while Holder and Madison each scored 21.