There are road trips, and then there's the Mountain Home road trip.
I can't think of a more difficult trip to make in this state to open 5A-West Conference play, but that's exactly what the Siloam Springs basketball teams did this past Friday night.
And the best part of it was both teams came away with victories at The Hangar.
The Siloam Springs girls, minus point guard Mimo Jacklik, gutted out a 40-36 victory against a tough Mountain Home team that tends to always play well on its home court.
The Lady Panthers trailed by seven in the third quarter, only to turn around with a 17-0 run spanning into the fourth quarter and take a 10-point lead. It wasn't over though as Mountain Home did what Mountain Home does -- hit some timely 3-pointers and the Lady Bombers closed within two late. But the Lady Panthers got a clutch play from Brooke Smith late to clinch the victory and survive.
The boys game was never really close. Siloam Springs scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back in routing the Bombers 48-21 in what was a mercy-rule victory.
No doubt it was sweet payback for the Panthers after losing twice to Mountain Home last season. Siloam Springs blew a double-digit lead against the Bombers at the PAC early in conference play last year. Siloam Springs then played a tough game at Mountain Home only for the Bombers to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Give the Panthers and Lady Panthers a lot of credit for the road wins. They're both better basketball teams than the Bombers and Lady Bombers, but that trip is an equalizer. Factor in that the Siloam Springs girls were playing short handed and well, all-in-all, it's a good way to open 5A-West Conference play.
Both Siloam Springs teams were scheduled to play at Alma on Tuesday -- another tough place to play. Heck, all of the venues in the 5A-West Conference are difficult and unique in their own right.
Over the years, I've been told the Panther Activity Center at Siloam Springs High School is plenty tough in its own right.
I can definitely see that. The arena has a wonderfully high ceiling and is very open and bright. Contrast that with Alma which is very, very dark except for the lighting on the court.
Van Buren's Clair Bates Arena reminds me a lot of the PAC.
Russellville's Cyclone Arena and Greenwood's H.B. Stewart Bulldog Arena are similar. I've not been to Greenbrier or Vilonia's gyms, only seen them on livestream, but I know it's not easy to win in either place.
It's a fun league to cover. One of the best in all of Arkansas.
Siloam Springs is set to host Greenbrier on Friday.
Are you ready for some basketball?
-- Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.