Lady Cats claim initial conference win of season
BERRYVILLE -- The Berryville Lady Bobcats earned their first conference win of the season with a 64-49 win over Gravette Tuesday night at Bobcat Arena.
Coming off two early-season setbacks to 1-4A Conference opponents Farmington and Ozark, Berryville (7-4, 1-2 1-4A Conference) found a way to close out the Lady Lions (4-8, 1-2) after blowing a 14-point lead against Farmington and losing by five at Ozark after being tied late in the closing minutes.
"We talked about, after the Farmington game, that we have to go win the game," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. "Nobody is going to let us win. So, we have focused our intensity in practice on not losing focus when it really matters. I think our girls are coming to the realization that if they play to their ability they are going to be in position to win."
Britni Smith led the Lady Cats with 14 points while Aleksei Smith added 11. Hannah Noble finished with nine off the bench. Noble played a big role in extending the third-quarter lead with back-to-back baskets, including a 3-pointer that started an 8-0 run.
"Hannah (Noble) played an outstanding game, her best game of the year," Cornelison said. "She just gets better and better and better. She's a tremendous athlete. I was very pleased with her effort."
Cornelison also noted the play of Allison Smith, who finished with six points.
"She played a heck of a second half," he said.
Smith said the Lady Cats are starting to understand what it takes to win.
"We are just a really young team," she said. "The more close games we play, the more experience we get in close-game situations. Last year, we really didn't have any of those situations. We are just gaining experience."
She said Gravette's late charge was cause for concern as the Lady Cats were poised to drop a third-straight division game after being tied or having a late lead. She said she trusted her teammates to get through it this time
"I had faith in our guards," Smith said. "I felt like we could pressure their guards, create steals and get layups."
The Lady Cats created 28 turnovers against the Lady Lions, leading to multiple fast-break opportunities.
"We knew going in that their guards could shoot it exceptionally well but did not like pressure," Cornelison said. "So we made it an absolute point to pressure them as much as we could. Obviously, it worked to our benefit."
Gravette coach Will Pittman wasted no words regarding the loss.
"This is exactly what I expected," he said. "I knew they were going to get after us. They physically whipped us and wanted it more than we did tonight. That's pretty much it. They whipped us. I don't have anymore to say about it."
The win was a boost for Berryville and possibly sent a message to the rest of the division.
"People think they can just come over here and pick up a win," Cornelison said. "We have been the whipping post for years. They (Gravette) are better than they were last year. But so are we. I think people are starting to realize that we can play a little bit."
Berryville returns to conference action after the holiday break with a home game against Pea Ridge on Jan 4. The Lady Cats close out the first half of the season at defending Class 3A state champion Greenland tonight.
Cornelison said the Lady Cats are looking no further down the schedule than that.
"After tonight, our next focus is our next conference game," he said. "We just have to take it one game at a time and stay focused on that task. We have Pea Ridge next and we have to beat Pea Ridge. Then we can look at the next game on the schedule."