District run boosts Bobcats’ confidence
By Scott Loftis
Before the Berryville Bobcats opened play in last week’s 4A-1 district tournament at Prairie Grove, coach Brent Compton said his team was capable of winning the tournament.
He wasn’t far off.
The Bobcats won three games in as many nights to reach the championship game before falling to Pea Ridge 68-56 on Saturday. Along the way, Berryville clinched a spot in this week’s 4A North Regional Tournament on its home floor at Bobcat Arena and avenged its most lopsided loss of the season.
Berryville (19-11) will face Morrilton (19-9) in a first-round regional game at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The winner will advance to the regional semifinals and clinch a spot in next week’s Class 4A State Tournament at Farmington.
“You could see it in their eyes,” Compton said of his team’s effort and confidence. “I could tell we had a chance to win every night.”
Going into the district tournament, Berryville had lost four of its previous six games — including a 27-point loss to Shiloh Christian on Senior Night at Bobcat Arena Feb. 7.
Needing two victories in the district tournament to keep their season alive, the Bobcats got three. They beat Gravette 44-28 on Tuesday, Feb. 18, then topped Farmington 52-35 the following night.
On Thursday, Feb. 20, Berryville beat Shiloh Christian 64-46 to earn its spot in the district tournament final. Junior guard Landon Chester made six of the Bobcats’ 12 three-pointers and scored 23 points. Senior guard Trenton Hutchison added five three-pointers and finished with 17 points.
In the championship game, Pea Ridge outscored Berryville 23-8 in the first quarter. The Bobcats got within 34-26 at halftime, but the Blackhawks pulled away in the third quarter. Sophomore guard Kade Davidson led Berryville with 15 points and sophomore post Weston Teague added 13.
Even with the loss to Pea Ridge, the Bobcats will carry some added confidence into the regional.
“We just kind of got on a run,” Compton said. “We had struggled against their 1-3-1 (zone), against everybody’s 1-3-1 for that matter for most of the season. We just found a few things that we felt like would work that we tweaked, some of the things that we did offensively. Lo and behold, it did.”
Clearly, making shots is critical against a zone defense, but of course it’s not that simple.
“Getting your guys that can make plays in the right spots is part of it, too,” Compton said. “We just attacked it different and we were more aggressive. We’d been too passive in the past against zones in general for that matter. We did some things and we started having success and our aggression got better and we kind of got it going.”
The offensive challenge will be a little different against Morrilton. Compton said handling the Devil Dogs’ pressure defense is critical for the Bobcats.
“They’re going to be extremely athletic,” he said. “They’re going to press us full-court. For us to be successful, we’re going to have to handle the basketball and really take care of it. That’s going to be the difference. If we can take care of the basketball and not turn it over, we’ll have a chance to win.”
If Berryville can make it a half-court game, the Bobcats may have the upper hand.
“We’re bigger than they are,” Compton said. “We have more size. I think we can score the ball better as a whole than they can. But their defensive pressure has me a little concerned.”