Wednesday, March 04, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Badgers cruise past West Helena

Leader sportswriter

ALMA – The Southeast No. 1 seed had little worries in the first round of the 5A state tournament.

Beebe advanced to the second round of state for the first time during the Lora Jackson-era with a 58-35 blowout win over West Helena.

Beebe (19-8) will play the winner of today’s game between Hot Springs (SW No. 2) and Greenwood (W No. 3) tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Senior guard Ty O’Neill poured in 24 points, most of which came in a runaway first half. Beebe took a 27-11 lead at the break after holding the Cougarettes to only two points in the second quarter, and maintained that advantage through the second half.

“We did a good job of putting a little bit of pressure on them,” said Jackson, now in her eighth year at the Lady Badger helm. “That caused the walks, and we were able to get a hand on the ball and knock it away.

“I knew that they did not have much of a bench, and we talked about trying to attack them and get them in foul trouble early.”

After O’Neill controlled the first half offensively, Beebe enjoyed a more balanced attack in the second half. O’Neill still led the way in the third quarter with eight points, but Geneshia Edwards, Danna Jackson and Amanda Wheeler each scored from the floor.

Wheeler’s basket at the 5:38 mark stretched the lead to 31-13. Edwards followed that with a transition lay-up set up by a defensive rebound and outlet from O’Neill.

The Cougarettes made their comeback attempt in the final minute of the third quarter. Rashakeri Ivory drove inside for two with 54 seconds left in the period, followed by a putback by Kiera Ward to cut Beebe’s lead to 39-24.

Ward and Aungelique Sledge started out the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets that pulled West Helena to within 41-28, but Sha Jackson responded with eight points in the final six minutes.

West Helena struggled in the clutches of the Lady Badgers’ 2-3 zone defense, which resulted in 13 first half turnovers.

O’Neill got off to a quick start for the Lady Badgers, scoring six points in the first three minutes. She converted Beebe’s first possession with a three-point basket at the 7:13 mark, and followed a jumper by West Helena’s Kiera Ward with a basket that was set up by a steal and assist by Edwards.

Her third basket at the 5:43 mark upped the lead to 7-2, and O’Neill finished off the quarter with another trey that gave the Lady Badgers a 13-9 lead heading into the second period.

Rushed shot selection hampered the Cougarettes throughout the second quarter, resulting in 1-of-12 shooting. Beebe made the most of the quick trips, and extended its lead to 21-9 by the 3:45 mark with a steal and coast-to-coast lay-up by O’Neill. West Helena also helped the Lady Badgers’ efforts by giving up seven turnovers in the period.

The Lady Badgers finished the game 23 of 47 from the floor and outrebounded West Helena 37-31. The Cougarettes turned it over 17 times.

O’Neill led the Lady Badgers with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Jackson finished with 12 points and Edwards added 11 points. Renneker finished strong on the boards with six rebounds.

For West Helena, Ward led the way with 11 points and seven rebounds.