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El Dorado set to take on Hot Springs Lakeside

by Tony Burns | January 7, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.

El Dorado’s boys’ basketball 5A-South season tips off Friday at Hot Springs Lakeside. It can’t get here soon enough for the Wildcats, who went 3-10 during the non-conference ledger.

El Dorado was plagued by injuries and some uncertainty due to half the squad arriving late because of the Wildcats’ football state championship season.

“Everything you do in non-conference, try to figure out rotations, try to figure out who’s playing well together, who can do what for your team,” began El Dorado coach Jimmy Porter in an interview on Monday. “We got our guys later than usual, obviously. Our guys won the state football championship so we didn’t get them until Dec. 6. And, the guys that came down, came down injured. So the past two weeks we’ve taken some tough losses to some teams that, honestly, we probably should’ve beaten. There are some growing pains that are involved with that.

“When you go into conference, it’s zero-zero. That’s when it starts for conference, for seeding. It is a brutal two-month grind. The official season starts today. Laronte McHenry (6-foot-7 junior) just got cleared (Monday). We don’t know what he can do, yet. I do expect him to be in the rotation. I can’t tell you a time or any of that. But I expect him to be in the rotation.”

El Dorado is joined by Lakeside, Texarkana, Sheridan, Pine Bluff, White Hall, Lake Hamilton and Hot Springs in the 5A-South. The Rams went 8-3 during the non-conference slate.

“They’re good. They’re very athletic, play really good team basketball. They shoot it pretty good,” Porter said. “I think the most impressive thing about Lakeside that hasn’t been typical Lakeside in the past is their defense. They really sit down and guard.

“They’ve got guys that really try to pressure the ball. They’re in the proper positions as far as gap deny and taking charges. And, they rebound extremely well. We will have to come out and not only play defense on our end but go out and execute offensively.

“I do expect to see a lot of zone. We’ve been seeing a lot of zone. If they’ve watched any film, they’re going to say, ‘El Dorado struggles versus zone.’ I expect to see a lot of zone but they may surprise. They may stick to their guns and come out and play man because they can. They can guard.”

For El Dorado, the non-conference schedule was for self-evaluation. Porter believes, despite the losses, the Wildcats learned a lot about themselves.

“Over the weekend we did some evaluations of our games in December. Literally, a third of our points every single game, we’re giving up transition lay-ups,” Porter said.

“They’re getting break-out uncontested lay-ups and that’s a third of our points. So I think a big factor for us moving forward is our transition defense. But even before our transition defense is our turnover percentage. We can’t turn the ball over and give them fast break lay-ups. And, we have to do a better job off our shots, getting back on transition defense.”

El Dorado, finally at full-strength, still has high hopes for the season despite the slow start.

The games that count toward a playoff seeding begin on Friday. The Wildcats will happily throw that 3-10 record into the trash.

“Excited to see what this team does during conference,” said Porter. “I think everybody is going to look at our record and say, ‘El Dorado is 3-10 in non-conference.’ I do think we’ll get overlooked by some teams. I think we have enough pieces here and guys who are starting to get bought into our system that I think we’re going to make a turnaround.” 

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