Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers top Robinson, pound Baptist

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Badgers advanced to the championship game of their own Beebe Christmas Classic with a 52-42 win over Pulaski Robinson on Friday and a dominant 55-31 win over Arkansas Baptist on Saturday at Badger Sports Arena.

Beebe (6-2) handed Robinson only its second loss of the season in the first round of the holiday tournament. At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Badgers led the Lady Senators 17-9, and increased that lead to double digits by halftime, leading 25-14.

University of Memphis signee Damonique Miller single-handedly kept Robinson (11-2) in the game by scoring 13 of her team’s 18 points in the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough to put much of a dent in Beebe’s lead, as it kept its double-digit lead at the start of the fourth quarter, leading 42-32.

Robinson was able to trim its deficit to eight points on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as the Lady Senators would get to catching the Lady Badgers. Both teams scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to set the final score.

Beebe actually committed more turnovers in the game with 27, five more than Robinson’s 22, but the Lady Badgers were the more efficient team shooting. Beebe finished the game 18 for 32 from the floor for 56 percent, bettering Robinson’s 34 percent on 16 for 47 shooting.

The Lady Badgers struggled with their shooting in their most recent game that took place at an invitational tournament at White Hall before Christmas, which ultimately led to their second loss of the season.

“That’s a remarkable improvement from White Hall,” said Lady Badgers’ coach Greg Richey. “But I was just glad to see the intensity level that the girls came out with, and they kept it at that level pretty much the whole game. I think we can be a pretty good team when it’s all said and done.”

Standout Lady Badger Kalela Miller led the offense against Robinson, finishing with a game-high 31 points.

Beebe had an even easier test against Arkansas Baptist (3-8) in the tournament semifinal on Saturday.

The Lady Badgers didn’t shoot the ball as well in that game, making 20 of 54 shots for 37 percent, but they didn’t have to shoot the ball great thanks to their defense.

The Lady Badgers forced the class 4A Lady Eagles to commit a whopping 37 turnovers in the game, 25 of which were Beebe takeaways.

Arkansas Baptist shot just 31 percent from the floor on 10 of 32 shooting, and star center Caroline Hogue, who scored 28 points against Sylvan Hills in the first round of the tournament, was held to just nine points, primarily because of Gracie Anders’ stellar defense. All of Hogue’s points Saturday came late in the second half with the game already out of reach.

“Arkansas Baptist is a good team,” Richey said. “I just think we took them out of what they wanted to do. We wanted to attack her (Hogue). I didn’t care if Gracie got her shot blocked every time. I just wanted her to go against somebody 6-foot-2 and see if she could handle that, and I thought she did a great job.”

Against Arkansas Baptist, Beebe led 13-6 at the end of the first quarter, and 23-9 at halftime. The Lady Badgers led by as much as 25 points in the third quarter, and at the start of the fourth they led 41-19.

Things didn’t get any easier for the Lady Eagles the rest of the way as Beebe managed to win the game by 24 points.

Anders led the Lady Badgers on Saturday with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Miller and sophomore Kassidy Elam added 11 points apiece.

Richey got to coach against his brother Jared Richey for the first time in the final of the Beebe Christmas Classic on Monday.

The Lady Badgers squared off against class 4A Brookland after deadlines, but look for details of the tournament championship game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.