Bobcats beat Ozark to make state tournament
The Berryville Bobcats are going back to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 after a 57-53 win over the Ozark Hillbillies on Wednesday night in the first round of the 4A North Regional Tournament at Bobcat Arena.
"This is these kids' first time getting to go to state," Berryville coach Brent Compton said. "The seniors went to regionals their sophomore year and got beat by Ozark in the first round. I think it's the seventh time in school history that Berryville basketball has made it to state. That just tells you what kind of group we have and how big of an accomplishment this is."
Ozark didn't make it easy on the Bobcats. The Hillbillies led 47-42 with seven minutes to go in the game, but Scotland Lucas and Zach Webb each went two for two from the free throw line on consecutive trips to trim the lead to one. A Webb basket gave Berryville a 48-47 lead with 5:18 remaining. Two free throws by Lucas gave the Bobcats a three-point lead. Ozark's Colt Millsap made a three-pointer with 1:34 left to tie the game at 50-50, but the Bobcats ended the game on a 7-3 run. Webb made a layup and the Bobcats forced Ozark to turn the ball over. Ty Allen followed by making two free throws and Lucas put the Bobcats up six with 22 seconds left after stealing the ball away from Ozark.
"The one versus four seed matchup was very deceiving tonight," Compton said. "Ozark has been a really good team all year. They just had some bad luck in the district tournament and ended up as the four seed. I was kind of uneasy going into it because I knew they were really good and physical. But our kids were resilient and came back to make the plays to win at the end."
Berryville got off to a great start, as a three-point play by Jarrett Ray helped get the Bobcats out to a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game. Ray's three-pointer extended the Berryville lead to eight, the biggest lead of the game for either team. The Hillbillies closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run and the game was tied at 15-15.
Ozark’s outside shooting made the Hillbillies a tough team to defend.
"We really pressured way out on the court, which makes you vulnerable as a defense," Compton said. "It makes you rotate a long distance and help. If one guy is just a little bit out of position, they seem to capitalize every single time."
Ozark took its first lead of the game on its first possession of the second quarter when Ethan Dorrough made a three-pointer. Ray made a basket to draw the Bobcats within one and two free throws by Allen gave the Bobcats a 21-20 lead. The two teams continued to exchange baskets and a jump shot by Allen with four seconds left tied the game at 30-30 going into halftime.
Berryville didn't score a basket in the third quarter until the 2:36 mark. Defense from players like Kooper Logan kept the Bobcats in the game during that stretch.
"Kooper has really energized us this last handful games," Compton said. "He has done a great job defensively. He is a hard-nosed kid."
Ozark led 44-42 going into the third quarter. One reason Berryville was able to make the comeback was because the Bobcats were 22 of 27 from the free-throw line.
"When the game was on the line, the guys that got fouled did what they had to do," Compton said. "They put them in in a huge pressure situation."
Ray finished the game with 19 points, while Lucas had 13 and Webb had 12.
Berryville will play the winner of Pea Ridge and Subiaco Academy on Friday in the semifinals of the 4A North regional tournament.
"They aren't going to have any time to prepare for us," Compton said. "We will have a generic practice tomorrow just to get the basketball in our hands. We aren't going to get too crazy with it because we want to save legs. This time of year, time might mean more than anything. It will be a short practice. Both teams are similar on defense, so we will work more offense tomorrow and then on Friday we will have a walkthrough and we will work defense then."
Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at Bobcat Arena.