East Mountain High School’s boys basketball team kept the score close in the early goings of its Nov. 20 season opener at home against the defending state champion Hot Springs Tigers.

The Timberwolves ultimately lost 52-37—but the team’s new skipper said he was pleased with what he saw from his players.

“For our first game, I was very happy,” East Mountain first-year head coach Mike Reilly said.

Despite shooting just 18% in the first quarter, Manny Madrid’s layup, followed by a plus-one free throw gave the T’Wolves an early 3-2 advantage—their only lead of the game. East Mountain only trailed 8-7 at the end of the stanza.

Hot Springs, who won the 3A state championship at the end of last spring’s Covid-delayed season, sank a pair of 3-point shots in the second quarter to take a 19-13 lead into the intermission.

The Tigers extended their lead to 10 points by the end of the third.

Trailing 43-28 midway through the fourth quarter, East Mountain’s Beckett Dunlavy produced a single-handed 8-0 run. Dunlavy nailed two consecutive 3-pointers, and then, after stealing the ball from a Hot Springs player, he sank an uncontested layup in transition.

“I knew I needed to start shooting cuz we were down, and then I got that steal, and it gave us a little momentum,” Dunlavy said. “I think we were really excited after that, it got everyone’s spirits up.

The T’Wolves only managed to score a free throw in the game’s final minutes as the Tigers ended with a 9-1 run.

“Those were the defending state champs and we gave ‘em a fight, so that was really good,” Dunlavy said. He scored a team-high 15 points. Manny Madrid added 13 points.

Coach Reilly said that he saw a lot of success in what the T’Wolves did in their first outing. “Obviously we have a lot to work on, but I’m very, very happy with the effort.