Release Date: 2/22/1999
Clarksville, Ark. ---It was a season of near misses for the University of the Ozarks' men's basketball team.
The Eagles' 1998-99 season ended on Saturday with an 88-83 loss at University of Dallas. The Eagles finished the season 12-12 overall and 6-4 in the American Southwest Conference, good for third place in the ASC East Division.
An average season came close to being a good one for the Eagles, who lost five games by five or fewer points and just missed making the ASC Tournament for the first time. The most heartbreaking setback was a 139-135 triple-overtime loss to Austin College two weeks ago that ended the Eagles' postseason tournament hopes. The top two teams in each division advance to ASC Tournament.
"Before the season, one of our goals was to finish in the top three and go to the conference tournament, but the (ASC) presidents voted later to just take the top two, so that hurt us," said Ozarks Coach Johnny Johnson, who is 140-109 in nine seasons at Ozarks. "I felt we had a pretty good year, considering we had just two starters back from last season. We had a big win over Mississippi College, the first one in school history, and took Austin College to triple overtime, two teams we knew we would have trouble beating. We certainly played better at the end of the year like I expected we would do with a young team."
The Eagles were led by their lone senior Ben Jones, who averaged 18.2 points and 6.4 rebounds a game and was among the nation's best in field goal percentage at 64 percent. Junior Patrick Prater finished with a 15.8 scoring average and junior Daniel Shepherd of Dardanelle averaged 14 points a game and had a team-high 66 three-pointers.
One of the biggest surprises was the play of freshman guard Ricky Johnson of North Little Rock, whose 12.8 scoring average makes him one of the favorites for the ASC Freshman of the Year award. Freshman post player Brian Henderson of Berryville was also a major contributor for the Eagles, averaging 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds as a 16-game starter.
"We should have four starters coming back as well as our entire bench, so we've got a chance to be pretty good if everything falls into place," Johnson said. "I'd like to get some help on the inside and recruit a point guard or two for next year. If we can fill a couple of holes and keep everyone we have, I'd feel very good about our team next year."