Lady Bobcats roll over Omaha in opener
By Scott Loftis
The Berryville Lady Bobcats tipped off their 2019-20 basketball season with a 41-point victory over Omaha on Wednesday in the first round of the annual Queens of the Court tournament at Green Forest’s Grim Gym.
Berryville trailed for exactly three seconds and turned the game into a rout by holding Omaha to two points in the second half for a 55-14 final.
Still, Lady Bobcats coach Daniel Cornelison said there is a lot of work to do as his team reboots after losing four senior starters from last season’s squad that reached the Class 4A state championship game.
Seniors Lexy Anderson and Jordan Estepp scored 12 points each to lead Berryville on Wednesday, and Cornelison said that duo likely will be counted on to provide a significant portion of the Lady Bobcats’ offensive production.
Cornelison, though, put an emphasis on defense during Wednesday’s game and the Lady Bobcats responded. Instead of the 2-3 zone that was a staple for last year’s team, Berryville played an aggressive man-to-man style that forced Omaha into turnovers and bad shots.
“We’re definitely going to do things a little bit differently this year,” Cornelison said. “We’ve got a long way to go with it. Obviously, it’s a process and it’s going to take time. If we’ll just stay the course, we’ll be fine I think.”
Cornelison was especially pleased with the defense of junior guard Lauren Compton, who made her first start for the Lady Bobcats.
“I really, really enjoyed watching Lauren Compton guard,” Cornelison said. “Defensively, I thought she did a really good job. If she can keep doing that, it will really help us.”
Omaha took its only lead of the game with 5:55 left in the first quarter, when senior Kaiden Carlton made the first of two free throws. Berryville junior Abby Thurman, another first-time starter for the Lady Bobcats answered with two free throws at the 5:52 mark and Berryville led the rest of the way.
The Lady Bobcats held a 12-3 advantage after the first quarter and stretched that margin to 28-12 by halftime. Anderson scored nine points during a 12-2 run in the second quarter for Berryville, including a three-pointer from the right baseline with 4:57 left for a 19-5 lead. She added a mid-range jumper at the 4:10 mark, then converted a steal into a layup with 3:37 left. Sophomore guard Faith Kelley made the first of two free throws with 3:08 remaining, then scored off an offensive rebound with 45.7 seconds left. Thurman scored the Lady Bobcats’ final basket of the half, also off an offensive rebound.
Estepp heated up in the third quarter with a pair of free throws at the 7:35 mark, a basket after a nice spin move in the lane with 4:30 left and an easy layup as a trailer in transition off a pass from Kelley with 2:30 left. Kelley’s bank shot after an offensive rebound by junior Ella McMellon pushed Berryville’s lead to 42-12 with 1:16 left in the quarter.
Despite the lopsided score, Cornelison saw plenty of areas of improvement for the Lady Bobcats, who didn’t start practice until last week.
“We’re just raw right now,” he said. “We have so many people playing together for the first time. It’s going to take some time to get things together the way we want.”
The victory moved the Lady Bobcats into the tournament semifinals on Thursday afternoon against Bergman.