Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe girls fall short in quarterfinal

Leader sports editor

ALMA – The Beebe Lady Badgers were on the brink of turning things around throughout their quarterfinal game against 5A-South champion Hot Springs. But they could never quite do it. The Lady Badgers never trailed by more than seven, and never more than five in the second half, but could never take the lead, falling 49-45 to the Lady Trojans and ending their season.

“I kept telling them, if we could ever take the lead, I think they might tighten up and it would put some of the pressure on them,” said Beebe coach Greg Richey. “We had opportunities to do it. We just didn’t take advantage of them. We missed some crucial free throws, and it’s unfortunate that Gracie (Anders) fouled out on a touch foul. They couldn’t stop her when we took our time and got it inside to her. But it’s just one of those games with those kinds of breaks. We never could get over that hump.”

Beebe hit only 8 of 17 free throws, and went 5 for 11 in the second half, but it was the ones that were missed that hurt more than just the poor percentage. Twice in the third quarter the Lady Badgers went to the line with two foul shots and a chance to take the lead, and missed all four. Later in the fourth quarter Beebe missed the front end of 1-and-1 trips to the line, once trailing by three and once by two.

Despite all that, Beebe still tied the game at 35 with 3:41 left to play, but just 20 seconds later gave up an old-fashioned three-point play to Tiaunna Watkins that made it 38-35.

Anders then hit after a nice entry pass by Madison Richey to again make it a one-point game, but that’s as close as Beebe got the rest of the way.

Immediately after Anders’ basket, Lady Trojan Berniezha Tidwell got two offensive rebounds and was fouled on the second putback. She made the subsequent free throw to make it a four-point game, but more importantly, it was Anders’ fifth foul with 2:49 left in the game.

Taylor McGraw scored on a driving layup with 1:37 left, and Tidwell hit two free throws to put Hot Springs up by four again. McGraw scored again for Beebe, but Richey fouled out on the next possession. Tidwell hit 1 of 2 at the line, giving Beebe the ball with another chance to tie or cut it to one, but they never got a shot off before turning the ball over. Tidwell again went to the line and hit 1 of 2 with 41 seconds to go, and McGraw scored just six seconds later. With 22 seconds left, Tidwell went to the line once again, and again hit 1 of 2 foul shots, making it 46-43. Miller was fouled on the rebound of the miss with only a second ticking off the clock, but she missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Tidwell got the rebound. McGraw fouled her and it was called an intentional foul, practically ending the game. Tidwell again hit one shot and Ashley Clayborn was fouled on the ensuing possession. She hit both of hers with seven seconds left and Miller hit a runner at the buzzer to set the final margin.

“I’m still very proud of what these seniors have accomplished,” Richey said. “They are 61-24 in their three years here. They’ve won a conference championship and they’ve advanced in the state tournament all three years. They’ve got nothing to hang their heads about.”

Miller led Beebe with 15 points while Anders added 14 and McGraw 12 for Beebe. Watkins led all players with 21 points while Tidwell added 19 for Hot Springs.

In the first round win over Harrison, Beebe scored the first five points of the second half to take a 33-30 lead and never trailed again, beating Harrison 60-55 on Saturday.

The margin stayed between five points and two until 40-38 with two minutes left in the third quarter. That’s when the Lady Badgers went on a 13-2 run that left them with a 53-40 lead with 6:30 remaining in the game. Beebe led 45-40 at the end of three, and then scored eight-straight to start the fourth. Anders scored four in the first minute before Miller got a steal and assist to McGraw. Anders then added another bucket inside the lane for the 13-point advantage.

Harrison wasn’t ready to fold at that point though. The Lady Goblins battled back and pulled to within 55-50 with 1:51 remaining in the game. They had a possession to get even closer after McGraw missed a pair of free throws. They also had two possessions to get closer than five at 57-52, but a missed shot was followed by a forced turnover, and Miller hit two foul shots to push it back to seven with 57 seconds left.