Thursday, December 31, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe ladies almost beat number one

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Lady Badgers suffered a reversal of fortunes between the semifinals and final of the Badger Christmas Classic. In Tuesday’s semifinal round, the Lady Badgers overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Searcy 62-53. In Wednesday’s championship game against the state’s overall number two ranked Riverview Lady Raiders, Beebe lost an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and fell 51-47.

Riverview, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, entered the game 15-0 and had mercy ruled 12 of those opponents, but were forced to come from behind for the first time this season against Beebe. Lady Badger coach Greg Richey felt the nature of the loss was difficult to take, but still put the game in perspective.

“There’s a reason they’re ranked one or two in the state,” said Richey. “If we can take that same effort into conference and beyond, we have a chance. We wanted to see where we stood against the best in the state, and I feel like we proved we’re capable of beating anybody. We just have to continue that same kind of effort we got tonight. Give that kind of effort and cut down on the turnovers, and we have a chance.”

Turnovers ultimately led to Beebe’s downfall on Wednesday. The Lady Badgers entered the fourth quarter already having given the ball up 17 times, and committed 13 more turnovers in the fourth quarter alone.

Beebe’s defense continued to play hard and continued to make things very difficult for Riverview offensively, but the mounting turnovers led to a big disparity in shot attempts in Riverview’s favor.

Riverview took its first lead when Kayla Young got a steal and layup with 2:05 remaining in the game. Gracie Anders was called for traveling on Beebe’s next possession, but Kassidy Elam got a steal to give the Lady Badgers possession with 1:15 to play. Badger sophomore Katie Turner hit a layup with 48 seconds left to put Beebe back in front 47-46, but Erykah Johns went the distance of the floor for a layup at the other end just 10 seconds later.

Beebe then lost the ball out of bounds and the Lady Badgers were forced to foul Madison Riley, who hit 1 of 2 free throws with 15 seconds remaining. Beebe’s press break executed the next possession perfectly, resulting in a wide-open, 10-foot baseline jumper by Libbie Hill that bounced off the back of the rim. Kiara Cartwright got the rebound, was fouled and hit both free throws to set the final margin with five seconds left in the game.

“We got a shot we wanted, and that’s a shot Libbie hits eight out of 10 times in practice,” Richey said. “We had a couple other open shots I wish we could’ve made that would’ve made a big difference, too. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”

Beebe didn’t give up a basket the entire first quarter, limiting the Lady Raiders to two free throws by Riley, and took a 13-2 lead into the second quarter.

Riverview then scored the first nine points of the second quarter to pull within two, but Beebe weathered that storm, and stretched its lead back to 25-18 by halftime.

Anders and Taylor McGraw each scored 11 points for Beebe while Turner added 10. Young scored 17 to lead Riverview while Johns had 16 and Riley 11.

On Tuesday, Beebe held Searcy to just three free throws in the fourth quarter, making Wednesday’s first quarter a complete half of basketball without giving up a single basket.

“My kids showed a lot of tenacity and when we get consistent for four quarters we should be tough to handle,” Richey said.

McGraw led that comeback despite finishing the game with a bloody mouth from a busted lip that required stitches. She hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and got a pair of steals that changed the momentum drastically early in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Badgers will play their 5A-Central Conference opener at home on Tuesday against Mills University Studies.