Lady Bobcats win two wild games; claim regional title
WEST FORK — Great teams find ways to win games and that is what the Berryville Lady Bobcats are doing best heading into the state tournament this week. After defeating Pottsville on Friday to get to the regional championship game on Saturday, Berryville defeated Ozark, 53-47 to claim the regional title.
"They never quit. They compete the entire time," coach Daniel Cornelison said. "The thing I love most about them is that they are winners. When you have winners, you win, and they are winners."
Down by two with 2:30 remaining, Berryville's Baylea Smith made one of two free throws, cutting the lead to one. Freshman Lexy Anderson made a basket, giving Berryville a 45-44 lead. Ozark's Jessica Turner answered with a three-point play, giving the Lady Hillbillies a 47-45 lead with 1:22 remaining. Anderson, a freshman, wasn't going to let the opportunity of getting a No. 1 seed in the state tournament pass her by, as she banked in a three-pointer to give the Lady Bobcats a one-point lead.
"Lexy has shown us glimpses all year long of what she can do and then for her to do that in the biggest moment, it says a lot about the character of that young lady, and her ability," Cornelison said. "To be in that environment, in that setting and play your best tells you what kind of person you are. It's unbelievable what she did. She carried us in the fourth quarter. It was pretty special."
Following a missed shot by Ozark, the Lady Hillbillies were forced to foul Aspen Smith with 40 seconds remaining. She made both free throws, giving Berryville a three-point lead. Ozark had three opportunities to tie the game, as Berryville was the last team to touch the ball before it went out of bounds on two occasions. Berryville finally secured a rebound and Anderson was fouled with six seconds remaining. Anderson made the first of two free throws, but her second free throw bounced off an Ozark defender. Kelcee Hopper was fouled on the inbounds play and made both free throws to give Berryville the six-point victory.
"It was just a great team win," Cornelison said. "You have to tip your hat to these young ladies. They never quit one second."
Things weren't going well for the Lady Bobcats early, as they trailed 13-5 at the end of the first quarter. Berryville trailed by 12 in the second quarter.
"We got off to a slow start, and that is going to bite us one of these days, " Cornelison said. "It hasn't yet, but once we got our offensive rhythm going, we started clicking."
A three-point play from Hopper and two free throws from Melody Smith cut the lead to seven with 5:54 remaining in the second quarter. Berryville closed the second quarter on a 7-2 run, including Baylea Smith's three-pointer at the buzzer to cut Ozark’s lead to 26-21 at halftime.
"We switched what we were doing offensively, and I had a feeling that what we were doing offensively would work if we would execute it and they did a great job of executing it," Cornelison said. "That really gave them a lot of fits."
Hannah Morrell scored the first six points of the second half for Berryville. Cornelison knew it was important to get her involved in the game.
"She stepped out in the second half and just dominated," Cornelison said. "That changed the complexity of the game. I told her at halftime, I said make a difference and she stepped up in the third quarter and took over."
Ozark led 37-31 going into the fourth quarter. Baskets by Aspen Smith and Anderson helped trim the lead to three with 5:44 remaining in the game. Two free throws from Anderson tied the game at 42 with 3:20 remaining in the game.
Anderson finished the game with 16 points, while Hopper had 12 and Baylea Smith had nine.
Berryville 38, Pottsville 35
If it's possible, Friday's victory over Pottsville might have been even more dramatic than Saturday's win over Ozark. Down by two with nine seconds remaining, Baylea Smith made a three-pointer to give Berryville a 36-35 lead. After a Pottsville timeout, Aspen Campbell drove the lane and missed a layup with two seconds remaining. Melody Smith rebounded the ball and was fouled with a second left and made both free throws. The Lady Apaches were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
"We didn't do a great job of handling the basketball, but what we did again was we kept the game close and when it got to the fourth quarter, they are winners," Cornelison said. "Baylea hits a huge three with nine seconds left and for Melody to get that rebound. I think she was three feet off the ground when she went up to get the ball. It was unbelievable. She just exploded off the ground to get that rebound. And then to make those two free throws to win the game, it was just huge of her to do that."
Pottsville led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter. Morrell had four points in the quarter. Baylea Smith was the only Lady Bobcat to score in the second quarter, as Pottsville led 18-12 going into halftime.
Cornelison was glad to see the Lady Bobcats play well in Friday night's game after struggling against Dardanelle.
"Our girls had just made the state tournament after beating Dardanelle and they were angry," Cornelison said. "Obviously we want to win these championships, but they want to play well. They knew they didn't play well and they didn't play up to their level. They were very upset with themselves."
Baylea Smith opened the third quarter with a three-pointer and Hopper scored two baskets, as the Lady Bobcats cut the lead to 24-22 heading into the fourth quarter. Two free throws from Morrell tied the game at 28 with 4:30 remaining in the game. Two free throws from Pottsville put the Lady Apaches back in front by two with 2:52 remaining, but a free throw by Baylea Smith and a basket from Hopper gave Berryville a one-point lead with 1:38 remaining. Pottsville had chances to clinch the game late, as the Lady Bobcats had three consecutive turnovers, but Pottsville went 3-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:03. Cornelison likes the way his team is playing at this point in the season.
"It isn't one person who makes us go," Cornelison said. "It's a total team effort."
Berryville (21-12) will play the winner of Wednesday’s game between Central Arkansas Christian and Dumas in the state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday in Nashville. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.