Lady Cats punch ticket to regionals: Berryville plays Farmington in semis to decide seedings in regional event
FARMINGTON -- Berryville punched it's ticket to next week's regional tournament with a 54-43 win over Gravette Wednesday night in the second round of the 1-4A Conference Tournament at Farmington.
Britni Smith led the Lady Bobcats with 15 points, Alex McCallister followed with 12 and Sara Johnson added 11 as Berryville improved to 18-9 and will face host Farmington at 4 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals.
The Lady Cats can enter next week's regionals no worse than a No. 4 seed but could finish as the top seed with wins over Farmington in the semis and either Prairie Grove or Ozark in the finals.
"We can only help ourselves at this point," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. "We are in (regionals). We just have to go and play. We can help ourselves but we can't really shoot ourselves in the foot. Hopefully we will play looser and improve our chances in the regional tournament. We have a chance to win if we play at our high level."
The Lady Cats didn't play their best against Gravette, an unlikely second-round opponent after edging Gentry in the opening round. Gravette led 9-7 at the end of the first period before Berryville came to life in the second, outscoring the Lady Lions 23-5 to lead 30-14 at the half.
"We were a little tight," Cornelison said. "It was a must-win game for us. We didn't flow very well at first. Hopefully we will play looser Friday night."
Gravette pulled to within five late in the third with a chance to trim the lead more. But the Lady Cats ran the lead back to nine with back-to-back buckets and maintained the advantage for the remainder of the game.
"We can't relax," Smith said after the game. "It seems like when we get a lead we relax. We have to keep going strong and try to win and not play not to lose. We can't do that. We just need to keep playing."
Smith and McCallister have been the scoring leaders for the last half of the season. McCallister has been hot from the perimeter, knocking down four 3-pointers against Gravette. McCallister said the Lady Cats need to be ready to play from the first tip against the Lady Cardinals.
"We didn't get good looks at the beginning and didn't play good defense," McCallister said of the game against Gravette. "I don't think we were mentally prepared. I think we thought we had it in the bag. They came ready to play and we didn't. We have to be ready (against Farmington)."
The Lady Cats have been on the cusp of beating the No. 1 seed the past three outings. But Farmington has found a way to win. The Lady Cards escaped with a six-point win at home in December and won by three at Berryville two weeks ago.
"It doesn't have to be a perfect game," Cornelison said. "You just can't have a two or three minute lull where you have breakdowns. You have to play a solid game on both ends of the floor. We have to defend really well and make every possession on offense count. We are both going to make mistakes. But we can't turn ball over in crucial situations and we have to do the little things well."
Berryville has it's most success when it plays well on the defensive end of the floor. Aleksei Smith leads the defense and generally draws the toughest assignments while Allison Smith and Sara Johnson control the paint. Allison Smith fouled out of Wednesday's game and Aleksei sat with four fouls for most of the fourth period, two players the Lady Cats need in the game down the stretch.
"Aleksei had a tough assignment against Gravette," Cornelison said. "But we have to have our starters on the floor. Our bench has to step in and give us quality minutes. But we can't be in late foul trouble."
Berryville has been solid off the bench with McKenzie Ruiz and Allie Teague in reserve. Teague had the game-winning 3-pointer against Gentry last week while Ruiz chipped in six points on Wednesday. But it all starts with Britni Smith at the point of attack and Farmington's Skyler Barnes blanketed Smith's every move in their most recent encounter.
"She has to do what she does," Cornelison said of his senior point guard. "We are going to have to do a better job of giving her some breaks. She is under pressure all night long. We have to spread the ball around and take some of that pressure off of her."