Holiday Hoops Champs: Lady Bobcats roll to title
By Scott Loftis
Saturday night’s Holiday Hoops Tournament girls championship game featured two top-ranked teams — Berryville, ranked No. 1 in Arkansas Class 4A by MaxPreps and Class 3A No. 1 Mountain View.
Instead of a heavyweight battle, though, it was a knockout win for the Lady Bobcats.
Playing one of its best games of the year, Berryville beat Mountain View 66-53 to claim the Holiday Hoops title for the first time since 2013.
Senior forward Hannah Morrell scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures for the Lady Bobcats. Senior guard McKayla Hussey scored all 13 of her points in the second half — including four three-pointers. Senior forward Kelcee Hopper added 12 points and senior guard Baylea Smith had 10.
“I’d say that’s one of the best games we’ve played all year,” said Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison, whose team is off to a 16-0 start and has won 48 of 51 games over the past two seasons.
The Lady Bobcats’ senior class, which includes two four-year starters and has reached the Class 4A state semifinals the past three years, had never won a Holiday Hoops title.
“It was something we talked about at the beginning of the year,” Cornelison said. “It was definitely a goal for us to win our tournament.”
The Lady Bobcats were in control almost from the opening tip against Mountain View. Berryville took a 6-5 lead on Morrell’s jumper from the top of the key with 4:04 left in the first quarter and led the rest of the way. Sophomore Lilli Compton’s three-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer put Berryville up 13-8. Sophomore Abby Thurman dropped in a three-pointer late in the second quarter to push the lead to 13 points at 30-17, and the Lady Bobcats led 32-21 at halftime.
Mountain View (13-3) scored the first four points of the third quarter to pull within seven, but Hussey’s three-pointer from the right baseline made it 35-25. Hopper went over two defenders in the lane for a basket to push it to 37-25, and Morrell scored from close range off a nice pass from junior Lexy Anderson for a 41-28 Berryville lead.
Hussey hit two three-pointers in a 34-second span — the first from the right baseline off an inside-out pass from Morrell with 1:26 left in the third quarter and the second from the right wing with 52 seconds remaining — before Smith made a driving layup to extend the Lady Bobcats’ lead to 49-32 at the end of the third quarter.
“She’s capable of doing that,” Cornelison said of Hussey’s shooting. “She made some big shots for us.”
The Lady Bobcats’ biggest lead of the night came on a basket by Hopper off a pass from Morrell that made it 58-39 with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Mountain View scored the next eight points, but Morrell ended that run with a layup off a pass from Hussey against the press for a 60-46 Berryville lead.
The Lady Bobcats passed the ball well throughout the game, which Cornelison said is one of their biggest strengths.
“They are so unselfish,” he said. “That’s one of the things I love about these girls. Nobody cares who scores as long as we score.”
To illustrate the point, Berryville’s final field goal of the game came when Anderson threw a baseball pass to Morrell for an easy layup against the Mountain View press for a 65-51 lead inside the final minute. Smith made the first of two free throws with 22 seconds left for the Lady Bobcats’ final point.
Berryville will host Green Forest on Friday before returning to conference play on Jan. 8 at Harrison.