Lady Bobcats overpower improving Lady Highlanders
By Scott Loftis
The Berryville Lady Bobcats represent one of the state’s top girls basketball programs in Class 4A. The Eureka Springs Lady Highlanders are a Class 2A program on the rise under a first-year head coach.
For now, at least, the Lady Bobcats have a clear edge, and it showed when the two teams met on Friday night at Bobcat Arena. Berryville dominated from the outset and defeated Eureka Springs 50-27.
The Lady Bobcats took control early, outscoring Eureka Springs 23-4 in the first quarter and widening the gap to 30-4 early in the second quarter.
“We played really well to start the game,” Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. “The first half was just really solid.”
Berryville jumped out to a 15-2 lead with a game-opening run that included three-pointers from sophomore guard Lilli Compton and senior guard Baylea Smith.
Berryville’s defense stymied Eureka Springs’ offensive attack that is built around junior posts Megan Holloway and Shelby Little. The Lady Bobcats’ guards applied pressure on the perimeter and their interior players made it difficult for Eureka Springs to move the ball inside.
“I thought we really disrupted them defensively and got after them,” Cornelison said.
First-year Eureka Springs coach Ryan Sanchez said the game offered his team an opportunity to test itself against a top-line program. The Lady Highlanders are 6-8 this season after winning just nine games total over the previous three seasons.
“They jumped on us early,” Sanchez said. “That is definitely a program we want to emulate. I told the girls ‘this is a measuring stick to see where we’re at.’ They exposed where we’re weak still, so it’s a measurement of where we have to improve.”
Berryville (5-0) led 35-6 after Smith converted a pair of free throws with 30.1 seconds left in the first half, but Eureka Springs freshman Olivia Cross made a three-pointer to cut the halftime margin to 35-9.
The Lady Bobcats outscored Eureka Springs 13-5 in the third quarter to extend their lead to 48-14 before the Berryville starters left the game at the end of the third quarter.
Morrell, who scored 31 points in the Lady Bobcats’ previous game, was the high scorer again for Berryville with 15 points. Smith added 11, while senior Kelcee Hopper scored eight.
Cornelison was pleased to see more balanced scoring from his team.
“I’ve really challenged the girls to take advantage of the opportunities they have,” Cornelison said. “We know that Baylea Smith can score the basketball. We know that Kelcee Hopper can score the basketball. We need some of the younger players to step up and make shots when the opportunity presents itself.”
Holloway had 10 points and Little added eight for Eureka Springs.
Sanchez said he was satisfied with his team’s effort.
“That’s something that takes no talent,” he said. “Just a desire and a want-to. You owe it to yourself after all the time you put in to go out and play hard and represent yourself and your team and your school.”
Cornelison said he has watched Eureka Springs play several times this season and sees a marked improvement in the Lady Highlanders.
“I told coach Sanchez after the game that I think they are on the right track and doing the right things,” Cornelison said.
Berryville will play Blue Eye, Mo., in the first round of the Blue Eye Tournament on Monday, Nov. 26. Eureka Springs will face Life Way Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in the first round of the Decatur Holiday Hoops tournament.