Lady Bobcats beat Gravette, get No. 1 seed at state

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
The Berryville Lady Bobcats pose for a photo after winning the 4A North regional tournament on Saturday.
Charles Chappell /

The Berryville Lady Bobcats defeated the Gravette Lady Lions 76-55 to claim the Class 4A North Regional Championship on Saturday.

"We didn't start the game like we did against Pottsville in the semifinals," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. "We started on our heels. Not focused. I don't know if it was this atmosphere that might have rattled us a little bit. I mean these fans, it was unbelievable the way our fans came out to support us. I think we were just a little amped up and jacked up. We kind of forgot our game plan. Once we gathered ourselves, we started doing what we knew we could do against Gravette and things worked out."

Gravette led 7-3 two minutes into the game and Hannah Morrell picked up her second foul midway through the first quarter, but Jordan Estepp came on in relief of Morrell. The Lady Lions led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter.

"They have a hard time guarding our bigs," Cornelison said. "We didn't get the ball to our bigs the first time we played them. That was an emphasis we put in practice was getting the ball to our post players and our post players demanding the basketball. Once we got in that rhythm, I thought they were going to have a hard time stopping us."

The combination of Kelcee Hopper, Morrell and Estepp combined for nine points in the second quarter and Baylea Smith made a three-pointer as the quarter came to a close. Berryville led 29-21 at halftime.

Cornelison was glad the Lady Bobcats were able to return the favor on Gravette after a loss in the district tournament final the previous week.

"Our girls wanted to play Gravette," Cornelison said. "They wanted Gravette to beat Ozark so that we could beat Gravette. We knew that we didn't play well on Saturday and they wanted that game. They wanted to whip them. They have been mad all week long about that. It kind of fueled our practices all week."

Hopper and Morell combined to score 12 points in the third quarter, as the Lady Bobcats extended their lead to 52-38 going into the fourth quarter. Hopper finished the game with 25 points, while Lexy Anderson had 22 and Smith had 10.

"Kelcee demanded the basketball all night long," Cornelison said. "She finished with 25 points and played a key, instrumental role in us beating Gravette tonight."

Cornelison hopes Berryville (31-2) can keep this momentum rolling into the Class 4A state tournament this week.

"We need two or three good practices before we head off to Brookland," Cornelison said. "That's the thing, there is no easy teams from this point forward. They are all good. We have to stay focused and bring it everyday."

Berryville will play the winner of Star City and ESTEM in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament at 4 p.m. on Friday in Brookland.

Berryville 62, Pottsville 53

In order for the Lady Bobcats to get to the championship game, they had to beat a Pottsville team that came into the game 25-4. The Lady Apaches eliminated Berryville in the Class 4A state semifinal game last year.

"We started the game with the attitude that we were going to be the aggressor," Cornelison said. "We played Pottsville last year in the state semifinals. They put us on our heels a little bit, so we wanted to be aggressive both offensively and defensively. I thought we did a great job of attacking. We kept pressuring them all night long, especially offensively."

A free throw by Smith gave the Lady Bobcats a seven-point lead with six minutes remaining, but Pottsville responded with a three-pointer and a two-point basket that came off of a steal. That trimmed the lead to three with five minutes remaining, but the Lady Bobcats went on a 7-0 run to help seal the victory. Berryville went 13 of 18 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

"Handling their pressure was the key because you have to keep them out of transition," Cornelison said. "If we could keep from turning it over, we could keep them out of transition and try to make them score in a halfcourt set. Once we were able to do that, I knew we had a great chance to win it."

Berryville led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter. Anderson had nine of those points and finished with 17.

"Lexy played outstanding against Pottsville and had an outstanding regional tournament," Cornelison said. "When she wants to play at a high level, she can play at a high level. She has that kind of ability. She is hard to guard. She is fast. She is strong. She can shoot it. It takes somebody pretty good to guard her."

The Lady Bobcats got in foul trouble early in the second quarter, which forced Cornelison to play freshman Abby Thurman, who hadn't played a meaningful minute all year. She made a three-pointer in the second quarter and Berryville led 29-24 at halftime.

"We got huge minutes from Abby," Cornelison said. "Abby plays without fear. Abby plays the game hard. I knew it was a tough situation for her, but she hit a big three for us. She took care of the basketball. She is a great kid. I was really happy for her."

Smith started the third quarter by making a three-pointer. Anderson made a basket and assisted on a basket by Hopper as the quarter came to a close. Berryville led 43-36 going into the third quarter. Smith had 18 points to go along with Anderson's 17 points and Hopper had 15.

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