Lady Bobcats respond in final minutes, clinch regional bid
With a little less than three minutes remaining in Monday’s game against Gravette, the Berryville Lady Bobcats had a prime opportunity to throw in the towel and head into the offseason.
But that’s not the Lady Bobcats’ style.
Instead, Berryville responded to the late-game adversity by cranking up their defensive intensity and outscored Gravette 9-2 over the final 2:37 to secure a 54-49 victory in the quarterfinals of the 4A-1 district tournament. The win moves the Lady Bobcats into a district semifinal game Tuesday night at Pea Ridge but more importantly clinches a spot for Berryville in next week’s district tournament at Ozark.
“To the girls’ credit, they did not quit,” Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. “They just hung in there and battled and got big turnovers and stops. It was a really, really nice win. I was so proud of the girls.”
Gravette had beaten Berryville 72-45 on the Lady Lions’ home floor on Jan. 26.
“I was sure proud of them,” Cornelison said. “For a team to get beat 30 and then turn around and beat them in a game like that — a game that means everything. You lose and go home or you win. And they stepped up big.”
The Lady Bobcats led Monday’s game for most of the second half after senior guard Lilli Compton dropped in a three-pointer from the left wing at the halftime buzzer to put Berryville ahead 25-22. Compton started the second half with another three-pointer to begin an 8-2 run that widened the Lady Bobcats’ lead to 33-24.
After Gravette cut the deficit to two at 35-33, Berryville scored the final six points of the quarter to make it 41-33. Lilli Compton had five points during that stretch — a three-pointer from the left wing off a nice pass from classmate Lauren Compton and a pair of free throws with four seconds left in the quarter.
The Lady Lions dominated the first four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, reeling off a 14-4 run to take a 47-45 lead on a pull-up jumper by senior guard Shylee Morrison with 3:32 remaining.
After a Berryville turnover on its next possession, Cornelison called timeout with 2:54 remaining. After the timeout, Gravette missed a shot and Berryville junior Faith Kelley was fouled going for the rebound. Kelley sank two free throws to tie the score at 47 with 2:37 left.
On Gravette’s next possession, Lilli and Lauren Compton trapped a ballhandler and Lilli Compton knocked away a pass. Lauren Compton saved the ball inbounds to Kelley to give Berryville possession.
The Lady Bobcats missed a running shot, but Lauren Compton scored off the offensive rebound despite being fouled, then added the free throw to put Berryville up 50-47 with 1:57 remaining.
“Lauren made a big and-one there at the end,” Cornelison said.
Lauren Compton made another big play on Gravette’s next possession, stepping in front of a bounce pass in the lane for a quick steal.
Berryville ran about 40 seconds off the clock before Gravette fouled Lilli Compton with 55.4 seconds left. She made the second of two free throws for a 51-47 lead.
After Gravette missed a three-pointer, Morrison grabbed the long rebound and hit a jumper from the free-throw line to cut the lead to 51-49 with 42 seconds remaining.
With the Lady Lions in a full-court man-to-man press, Berryville inbounded the ball to Lilli Compton, who was fouled by Morrison — the fifth foul on the Lady Lions star. Compton made the second of two free throws to push the Lady Bobcats’ lead to 52-49 with 36.6 seconds left.
Gravette pushed the ball into the frontcourt before Lilli Compton stole the ball off a dribble and threw a long pass to Anni Armer in the lane. Armer flipped the ball to Lauren Compton for an easy layup and a 54-49 Berryville lead with 20 seconds left.
After a timeout, Gravette missed a three-pointer and the rebound went out of bounds with six seconds left. From there, Berryville dribbled out the clock and moved on to the next round.
Lilli Compton made five three-pointers and led the Lady Bobcats with 20 points.
“Lilli is a really, really good player,” Cornelison said. “She knows how to play the game. She knows little subtleties on how to get open. She can shoot the fire out of it, and she knows how to get open. That's the key.”
Lauren Compton had a double-double, with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“She was just a difference-maker for us in there,” Cornelison said.
Sophomore Hannah Youngblood scored 10 points for Berryville, which overcame 13 missed free throws in 28 attempts.
“It’s probably the best free-throw shooting team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Cornelison said. “We’re shooting 75 percent from the free-throw line as a team, and then to go shoot like we did was sure out of character. It was weird. I thought it was going to get us beat, but we made enough of them to win.”
Morrison led Gravette with 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
With the regional spot clinched, the Lady Bobcats will now be playing for seeding. The winner of Tuesday night’s game will play for the district tournament championship on Thursday night, while the loser will move on to the third-place game.
“The pressure was last night,” Cornelison said Tuesday morning. “The rest of it, you just need to go try to play and get better and see what happens.”