Lady Bobcats survive and advance despite loss
By Scott Loftis
MORRILTON — The Berryville Lady Bobcats didn’t win the 4A North Regional Tournament over the weekend, but they did accomplish their primary goal.
The Lady Bobcats clinched a state tournament bid with their 53-30 victory over Morrilton in the first round of the regional on Thursday, Feb. 21. Berryville then defeated Clarksville 46-32 in a semifinal game on Friday before losing Saturday night’s championship game to Harrison, 39-32.
The Lady Bobcats (28-4) will face Warren (16-6) in the first round of the state tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday at Magnolia High School. The winner will advance to play a quarterfinal game against Pulaski Academy at 7 p.m. Friday.
“The thing we had to do was go down there and win a game,” Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison. “We wanted to punch our ticket to the state tournament and we had to beat the host team. I was really proud of our effort that night. We did a lot of things right that night, on offense and defense. We really stepped on the court and took control of that game early.”
Cornelison said the Lady Bobcats didn’t play as well against Clarksville.
“Their size gave us some problems,” he said. “But we made enough plays to win the game.”
Junior guard Lexy Anderson scored 10 points in the first quarter against Clarksville and finished with 14. Senior forward Hannah Morrell added 12 points for the Lady Bobcats.
Against Harrison, the Lady Bobcats seemed out of sync, especially in the first half. The Lady Goblins weren’t especially sharp, either, but used an 8-0 run early in the second quarter to turn an 8-8 tie into a 16-8 Harrison lead. The Lady Goblins led the rest of the way, although Berryville closed the gap to 17-14 by halftime.
“I don’t know what happened in the first half,” Cornelison said. “It was very uncharacteristic of us. We were so out of rhythm.”
Harrison pushed its lead to six points midway through the third quarter. Berryville cut the deficit to three when Morrell made the first of two free throws with 40.6 seconds left in the quarter, but Harrison junior Kenzi Parker converted an offensive rebound into a basket with 9.2 seconds left for a 28-23 lead.
Morrell’s jumper from the top of the key and an inside basket by senior forward Kelcee Hopper got the Lady Bobcats back within three at 30-27 with 6:47 left in the game. After a Parker basket, Morrell made a free throw and Hopper scored again from close range for a 32-30 deficit. Berryville senior guard Baylea Smith forced a jump ball on Harrison’s next possession and the Lady Bobcats had a shot for the lead but a three-point attempt popped out.
The Lady Goblins’ Brylie Parker converted two free throws at the 2:06 mark to make it 34-30. After another missed shot, Berryville was forced to foul. Harrison junior Caroline
Cecil missed the front end of a one-and-one but the Lady Bobcats couldn’t convert on offense and Harrison went on to close out the victory.
“They just made a couple more shots than we did,” Cornelison said. “Neither team shot the ball very well, probably because we both guarded so well.”
Morrell led Berryville with 14 points and Hopper added 12.
Now, the Lady Bobcats turn their attention to Warren. Cornelison said the situation is clear.
“It’s win or go home now,” he said. “You’ve got to beat the team in front of you. We’ve got Warren on Thursday and if we win that, we’re staring at PA after that.”
Berryville has reached the Class 4A state semifinals each of the past three seasons, but that was before the Arkansas Activities Association revamped its classifications for the 2018-2020 cycle. Essentially, the AAA eliminated Class 7A for every sport but football. The 16 teams that had been a part of 7A were pushed down into Class 6A, with a domino effect sending 16 teams that were in 5A last season down to 4A. Of the 12 teams in the Class 4A girls state tournament, six were Class 5A teams until this season.
One thing Cornelison knows for sure: “They’re all good teams at this point.”