Congratulations, Lady Bobcats
“There is no cheering in the press box.”
That’s a long-standing rule for sportswriters, and it’s one I repeatedly broke over the weekend at the Class 4A state basketball tournament in Magnolia.
I tried not to. I really did. But what the Berryville Lady Bobcats accomplished in three games was too worthy of celebrating to worry about some silly old rule.
Journalists are supposed to be objective — even sportswriters. But the truth is that when you cover a team over the course of a season, when you talk to the coach after every game, when you see the hard work that the players put in, you can’t help but pull for them. And when you’re covering a team like the Berryville Lady Bobcats, it doesn’t take long before you become a big fan.
I don’t know if the Lady Bobcats will beat Batesville in the championship game on Thursday in Hot Springs. Batesville is a very, very good team, representing a Class 5A school in the 4A tournament. But after what the Lady Bobcats accomplished in three games in Magnolia, I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.
Berryville could have folded in its first-round game against Warren, when it fell behind by 10 points in the second half and the officials apparently decided that senior forward Hannah Morrell wasn’t going to play that day. The Lady Bobcats could have wilted down the stretch against Pulaski Academy, another game in which they trailed big in the third quarter. They could have been intimidated in the semifinals against Harrison — another 4A team from a 5A school that had been beaten Berryville twice in three meetings this season.
Instead of folding up or throwing in the towel, though, the Lady Bobcats absolutely refused to lose. Senior guard Baylea Smith hit some crucial three-pointers. Junior guard Lexy Anderson was a force on both ends of the court. Senior forward Kelcee Hopper made basket after basket on the inside. Senior guard McKayla Hussey made some timely shots and played solid defense. Juniors Jordan Estepp and Kelsey Smith and sophomore Lilli Compton made solid contributions off the bench. And when the officials finally stopped calling a foul every time Morrell took a breath, she absolutely dominated Harrison in the semifinals with 29 points and too many rebounds for me to count.
Head coach Daniel Cornelison and assistant coach Aaron Hall deserve plenty of credit, too, for keeping the team focused all season but especially in the state tournament.
The Lady Bobcats reached the state semifinals for the fourth consecutive year. For the first time, they won in the semis and advanced to the state championship game.
Win or lose on Thursday, this is a very special basketball team. It has been a pleasure covering them this season and I’ll be right there pulling for them in Hot Springs.
• • •
Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.