Queens of the Court: Lady Bobcats overcome foul trouble to claim crown
By Scott Loftis
The Berryville Lady Bobcats won their second consecutive Queens of the Court Tournament championship on Saturday in Green Forest, but the trophy didn’t come easily.
Plagued by foul trouble that left three starters on the bench for much of the first half, the Lady Bobcats rallied in the third quarter and then held on to beat Pea Ridge 44-39 in the championship game.
“When your best three players are sitting on the bench in foul trouble for most of the first half, you know it’s going to be a tough game,” Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said.
Berryville got out to a fast start as senior guard Baylea Smith scored 10 of her team-high 15 points in the first quarter. Smith’s steal and driving layup with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter gave the Lady Bobcats a 13-1 lead.
But senior forward Hannah Morrell drew her second foul with 2:24 remaining in the quarter and Smith was whistled for her second foul on a charging call with 4.7 seconds left. Both spent the remainder of the first half on the bench. Senior forward Kelcee Hopper joined them at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter.
“Everything was working the way we wanted it to, until we got in foul trouble,” Cornelison said. “I told the girls before the game, the one thing we couldn’t do was get in foul trouble.”
Pea Ridge scored 14 consecutive points as Berryville didn’t score over the final 2:53 of the first quarter and the first 4:26 of the second.
Sophomore Lilli Compton broke the Lady Bobcats’ scoring drought with a three-pointer that put Berryville ahead 16-15 with 3:34 left in the second quarter and sophomore Abby Thurman made two free throws 23 seconds later for an 18-17 lead.
Pea Ridge responded by scoring the final five points of the first half to lead 22-18.
Cornelison credited his team’s defense and the play of its backups who were pressed into service with keeping the Lady Bobcats within striking distance.
“That was the goal,” Cornelison said. “In my head I was thinking ‘as long as we can keep this close, (Smith, Morrell and Hopper) weren’t going back in. That’s a credit to those girls. They did a great job of communicating on defense. They were the reason we were able to avoid getting in worse foul trouble.”
Even with its starters back on the court, Berryville was outscored 7-3 over the first 2:35 of the third quarter to extend its lead to 29-21.
“I was starting to