Defense drives Mathis, Greenbrier

By Mark Oliver 

It has been a season of peaks and valleys for Greenbrier. After a promising 8-0 start to the season, the Panthers have faced adversity, resulting in only a handful of wins since then. 

With the postseason on the horizon, the Panthers know that it only takes a spark to help the team get hot when it matters the most. With three games to go in the regular season, the Panthers are confident that they can finish strong. Earlier this season, Greenbrier went a combined 2-1 against their final three opponents. 

Greenbrier High School’s Jacob Mathis is a member of this year’s 501 Basketball Team, sponsored by Velda Luders of Coldwell Banker RPM Group, Moix Equipment and Toy Company, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. (Mike Kemp photo)

“Our team goals are to finish the season strong and keep getting better,” senior guard Jacob Mathis said. “This week, our strategy is to never give up, despite the obstacles that we’ll face in our games. I think whenever we have lost really close games to the best teams in our conference, it showed us that we can succeed against anyone.”

Mathis leads the Panthers on the court this season. A strong motivator through his play, the senior guard has earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates down the stretch.

“I think we’ve performed well this season,” Mathis said.  “We’ve had a couple of games slip by us, but every game we compete and give our all. We don’t make it easy for anyone. I lead by being vocal, coaching my teammates up and giving my all. It’s easier for them to play harder when they see me doing the same.” 

Mathis was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 40 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Velda Luders of Coldwell Banker RPM Group, Moix Equipment and Toy Company, Conway Regional Health System and First Security Bank. The senior was nominated by his head coach, Mike Simmons.  
“Jacob is one of the better leaders that I have coached,” Simmons said. “He leads by example with hard work and effort and always gives 100-percent. He doesn’t miss school or practices and his teammates respect him.” 
Mathis has improved with each game this season. From his quickness to his ability to frequently block shots and steal the basketball, Mathis is well-known for giving opponents fits, defensively. The senior attributes his progression to his basketball role models.

“I have two basketball role models, my dad and Kevin Durant,” Mathis said. “My dad put a ball in my hand when I was five years old and he taught me everything I know. I also love to watch Kevin Durant. The way he plays on the court is really magnetizing.” 

“Jacob was a starter last year and has the potential to be our best defensive player and rebounder this year,” Simmons said. “His ballhandling has improved and he will be one of our better drivers on offense.” 

Off the court, Mathis runs track and field and earned All-State honors at wide receiver and tight end for Panthers football this season. A member of FBLA, Chess Club and Fishing Club, the senior maintains a 4.0 GPA in the classroom and plans to continue his athletic and academic career at the next level. 

“After high school, I am attending Hendrix College to play football and following college, I plan to become a physical therapist.”
Greenbrier travels to Alma at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18. 

Mark Oliver
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