Top five boys basketball players to watch in 5A-West conference tournament

Leland Barclay
Special to the Times Record

The Van Buren boys basketball team closed practice on Monday with a situational play in preparation for Tuesday’s game against Alma.

The Pointers put 4.9 seconds on the clock and needing a 3-pointer to win.

Then on Tuesday that situation came up almost to the second, and Avery Salisbury delivered a shot that will live forever in Pointers’ lore in a 48-47 win over the rival Airedales.

“That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life for sure,” Salisbury said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in basketball.”

Salisbury took a pass from teammate Conner Myers and launched the shot with plenty of time to spare right at midcourt that swished the net as time expired.

“I really wanted to make that shot,” Salisbury said. “I looked at Jose (Estrada), and he was covered. I said, ‘This is my moment.’ I stepped up.”

It was the sixth shot made by Salisbury this season to end a quarter at or very near mid-court.

As the 5A-West conference tournament begins on Friday, Salisbury will be one of the top five players to watch:

Avery Salisbury, Van Buren

Salisbury leads the Pointers in scoring with 16.8 points per conference game.

Estrada and Brandon Miller also average in double digits for Van Buren, which earned the third seed in the tournament and a first-round bye.

The Pointers will play at home on Monday at 6 p.m. against the winner of Friday’s game between Mountain Home and Greenbrier.

Drew Battles, Alma

Had it not been for Salisbury, it would have been Battles who nailed the game-winning 3-pointer on Tuesday.

He hit his 48th of the season with 4.6 seconds left that had Alma up, 47-45.

Battles led the Airedales in scoring in conference play by averaging 11.8 points per game. He also distributes 3.9 assists per game and complements the inside tandem of Nathan Whalen and Hunter McAlister.

Alma opens the conference tournament on Friday at rival Greenwood at 6 p.m.

Trey Allen, Russellville

The 6-foot guard averaged 14 points a game last season and is maintaining it  for the conference champion Cyclones. 

Russellville, which claimed its fourth straight conference title, is the top seed in the conference tournament, received a bye to the semifinals and an automatic berth in the 5A state tournament.

Braden Stein, Greenwood

Stein is the Bulldogs' big man inside. He’s going to Pittsburg  State to play football on the offensive line.

First, though, he wants to finish out his high school career on the basketball court on a good note.

Greenwood opens the conference tournament on Friday at home against Alma, which the Bulldogs defeated twice during the regular season.

Austin Myers, Vilonia

Myers signed to play quarterback at Kansas, but he’s also a talented basketball player for the Eagles. Myers, a 6-4 forward, leads Vilonia in scoring.

Vilonia is the second seed in the conference tournament, received a bye into the semifinals and an automatic berth into the state tournament.