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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Elmore County’s Hayden Holton (1) attempts a contested shot against Horseshoe Bend’s Kamden Evers.

More than two weeks had gone by since the Horseshoe Bend boys basketball team was on the court for a game and it showed Monday night in Eclectic. The Generals did not make a basket until the 1:23 mark of the second quarter and they could not dig out of the hole as Elmore County ran away from the visitors, winning 51-18.

“You can blame the shooting on that but the effort wasn’t there (Monday),” Horseshoe Bend coach Chad Kison said. “We didn’t show up ready to play. When your effort isn’t there, you miss out on the fundamental stuff. We have to get better at that.”

Horseshoe Bend (2-9) fell behind 24-1 before Zay Stevens knocked down a 3-pointer for the team’s lone made field goal of the first half. The Generals had 15 turnovers in the first half and finished with 24 for the game.

Elmore County (4-13) set a new season best for points allowed, beating its old mark by 13 points. The Panthers locked into a man defense and never needed to switch things up as they got into passing lanes and allowed very few second-chance opportunities.

“All year long, I think we have played some really good defense,” ECHS coach Rodney Taylor said. “When we set up in the half court, we have done a good job. They didn’t have many easy shots. We made them work for it.”

Zion Reed and Dylan Willis each finished with three steals for the Panthers. Every player on Elmore County recorded at least one steal as it combined for 16.

The Panthers had a clear game plan to limit Horseshoe Bend’s Cole Johnson as Willis and Keshawn Benson limited Johnson’s touches for most of the night. Elmore County denied passes to Johnson from baseline to baseline and the General’s leading scorer did not get on the board until the third quarter.

“He can shoot and he made some tough shots (Monday),” Taylor said. “We ran him all over this floor but our goal was to take him away. Keshawn and Dylan did a really good job on him.”

Johnson still finished with eight points to lead the Generals. Horseshoe Bend got little production from the rest of the team as just three others got on the scoresheet.

“We’re going to see a lot of that because he has been our scorer,” Kison said. “He’s a good player and when he gets hot, he’s hot so a lot of teams are going to do that. We’re going to have to pick up that slack and the offense has to come from somewhere else.”

Elmore County’s offense got a spark from Payton Stephenson who outscored the Generals by himself, finishing with 19 points. Five other players scored at least five points for the Panthers but no one else reached double figures.

The Panthers began play in Class 4A Area 5 Tuesday night at Holtville and Taylor said he hopes Monday’s game is a sign of things to come.

“We have played a really tough schedule to prepare us for this part of the season,” Taylor said. “We needed this. I think we’re a whole lot better. They are putting the time and the work in. I think that’s how you have to judge a team.”

Horseshoe Bend hosted LaFayette on Tuesday night as its area play ramps up. Kison admitted he was hoping for more from the team’s first game back from the break because time is running out on putting the final package together.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.