HOT SPRINGS — Malvern’s Andre Jones was the marquee player in the Boys 4A State Championship game.
But Baptist Prep’s Connor Vanover will be taking home the MVP award.
And the state title after the Eagles — with their twin towers affecting the Leopards’ offense — got a 61-54 win Thursday night.
Vanover, a sophomore who is already garnering offers from Arkansas among others, combined with older brother Brandon to score 24 points.
It was how difficult they made things for Malvern’s offense, though, that made the difference.
Well, that and the fact all of their 24 points came down low, mostly on short moves in the paint under the basket.
Overlooked in the disruption down low was the play of guards Cory McGonigal and Issac McBride, who combined for 31 points when Malvern’s defense collapsed inside to try and slow down the Vanovers.
Overall, the Eagles shot a blistering 56.8 percent from the field for the game, including 46.2 percent behind the 3-point line. They got over half — 36 points — from inside the paint for the game.
Malvern didn’t shoot badly, hitting 47.6 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from the 3-point line. But that difference from the field was enough in a game that was close from halftime on.
Baptist Prep led at the end of the first quarter 16-12, but Malvern trimmed the lead to 29-26 at halftime.
The third quarter saw the Eagles open the lead again to 4, 42-38.
The Leopards never could get close in the final period. Every time they threatened, the Eagles hit another 3-pointer or got a shot down low.
Baptist Prep finished the season 26-8 while Malvern suffered only it’s third loss, falling to 31-3.