Lady Bobcats rally past Warren to reach state quarterfinals
By Scott Loftis
MAGNOLIA — The Berryville Lady Bobcats had a lot to overcome Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Class 4A State Tournament.
Two key players missed much of the first half because of foul trouble. The Lady Bobcats’ three-point shots weren’t falling. And a scrappy Warren team was holding a 10-point lead past the midway point of the third quarter.
An ordinary team might have folded. But these Lady Bobcats are no ordinary team.
Over a period of five minutes and 40 seconds, Berryville outscored Warren 18-0 to turn that 10-point deficit into an eight-point lead. The Lady Bobcats went on to beat Warren 56-46 at Panther Arena and advance to the state quarterfinals.
The Lady Bobcats (29-4) will face Pulaski Academy at 7 p.m. Friday. A victory would put Berryville in the state semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.
Junior guard Lexy Anderson scored 22 points for Berryville, including three of the Lady Bobcats’ five three-pointers. Senior forward Kelcee Hopper had 17 points, including 11 in the first half to help keep Berryville close. Senior guard Baylea Smith, who sat for most of the first half because of foul trouble, made two crucial three-pointers during the Lady Bobcats’ second-half rally and finished with eight points.
Hopper started the game-changing rally for Berryville when she scored from close range after a pass from Anderson to cut Warren’s lead to 36-28 with 3:28 left in the third quarter. Two possessions later, she was fouled after an offensive rebound and sank two free throws at the 2:07 mark.
Anderson drove the lane for a basket and junior Jordan Estepp made one of two free throws to pull Berryville within three at 36-33 with 1:00 left in the quarter.
After Warren missed two shots on its next possession, Berryville got the ball back and held for the final shot of the quarter. Smith made it count, draining a three-pointer from the left wing with 6.2 seconds left to tie the score at 36-36.
On the Lady Bobcats’ first possession of the second half, Hopper scored on a putback to give Berryville its first lead since the 2:22 mark of the second quarter. Anderson gave Berryville some breathing room when she dropped in a three-pointer from the right baseline with 7:06 left, and Smith finished the 18-0 run with her second three-pointer. That one, from the left baseline, made it 44-36 with 5:48 left.
A pair of free throws pulled Warren within three points with 3:16 left, but Anderson drove the lane for a basket and then answered another Warren free throw with two of her own for a 50-44 lead with 2:12 to go.
Berryville led 51-46 when a Warren player fouled Anderson and then was called for a technical foul with 1:14 remaining. Anderson made one of two free throws for the personal foul and sophomore guard Lilli Compton added two more for the technical to make it 54-46.
Estepp scored Berryville’s final basket on a layup with 39 seconds remaining.
Berryville got the victory despite missing senior forward Hannah Morrell for almost the entire game because of foul trouble. Morrell, a four-year starter who combines with Hopper to give the Lady Bobcats one of the state’s top interior scoring attacks as well as a commanding presence on defense, drew her second foul with 5:51 remaining in the first quarter. She sat out the rest of the first half before returning for the state of the third quarter. Morrell was whistled for her third foul with 6:59 left in the quarter, then was called for a charge at the 6:26 mark. She did not return until there was 5:30 left in the game, and she was called for her fifth and final foul at the 4:37 mark. At least three of the foul calls were questionable.
In all, Morrell played four minutes and 36 seconds.