Friday, February 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> SH ladies end streak by Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe girls’ 5A-Central winning streak ended at 11 games Tuesday night at home, as Sylvan Hills came into Badger Arena and handed the hosts their first loss of 2016 with a narrow 52-49 upset victory.

Sylvan Hills led 4-1 early in the game, but Beebe tied the game with a Taylor McGraw three and the hosts took a 12-10 lead into the second quarter. The Lady Bears outscored the hosts 16-7 in the second quarter, which gave Sylvan Hills a 26-19 lead at halftime.

Beebe began the second half with a 10-0 run to retake the lead at 29-26, but the Lady Badgers couldn’t further their lead as the third quarter progressed, and by the end of the quarter, Beebe only led 36-35.

Sylvan Hills took its first lead of the fourth quarter on a driving, contested layup by sophomore post Alana Canady with 5:02 remaining, which put the Lady Bears up 39-38. Beebe answered, though, with a Katie Turner basket on the following possession, which put the hosts back up one at 40-39.

With 4:15 remaining, Canady sank a pair of one-and-one free throws to give SHHS a 41-40 lead, but McGraw answered with a 3-pointer with 3:57 left, putting the Lady Badgers back up 43-41.

Beebe was already down a starter coming into the game, and Turner fouled out on the possession following McGraw’s go-ahead three. Canady tied the game at 43-43 with a steal and transition layup with 3:16 to play, and Sylvan Hills took a 45-43 lead with a contested layup by Da’Bria Thompson with 2:35 left.

Beebe starting center Gracie Anders fouled out on that Thompson basket, and Beebe trailed the rest of the game, but didn’t go down without a fight.

With 55.9 seconds left, Canady made two more free throws to up the Lady Bears’ lead to 49-43, but McGraw answered with a corner three on the following possession to make it a three-point game.

Beebe coach Greg Richey called timeout immediately after, and Beebe tried to force a turnover on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t, and had to foul with 27 seconds left.

The foul put Sylvan Hills guard Lainie Ballard on the line and she made both free throws to up the Lady Bears’ lead to 51-46. Thompson got a steal on the next possession, and got the ball to Canady, who was fouled with 13.1 seconds left.

Canady made 1 of 2 free throws for a 52-46 Lady Bear lead, but McGraw rushed the ball up court and put in a three from just past half court, which made it 52-49 with 4.2 seconds left.

Beebe’s Hannah McGhee then stole the inbound pass and dished to McGraw, who made another long three, but McGhee was fouled just before she made the pass to McGraw. Beebe then inbounded the ball to McGraw, but McGraw was well-guarded by Thompson, and McGraw had the ball knocked away by Thompson as she tried to get a shot up, and time expired as the ball bounced away, sealing the win for Sylvan Hills.

“I told them at halftime, it’s going to be a battle and it is going to come down to the last second, I guarantee,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “I felt like our youth showed right there in the second half and it really scared me at first because Beebe’s mature and they’ve been there. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know how we’d respond.”

Beebe made double the shots Sylvan Hills did from the floor in the second half Tuesday. The Lady Badgers made 12 shots in the last two quarters, four of which were threes, and Sylvan Hills made just six shots in the second half with no threes. But, the difference for the Lady Bears was at the free-throw line.

In the second half alone, Sylvan Hills made 14 of 17 shots from the line, including 9 of 11 in the fourth quarter. Beebe didn’t attempt a free throw in the fourth quarter, and went just 2 for 4 from the line in the third.

“That’s huge,” Davis said. “I don’t know what you do to make a kid realize how crucial those are going to be at the end of games. That’s an improvement for us because the last two games we were struggling from the free-throw line.”

“We couldn’t get to the foul line,” said Richey, “and that’s mostly our fault. We did get the ball inside sometimes during the second half and we didn’t convert our opportunities. I didn’t think we got fouled, but we just didn’t convert our opportunities we had underneath the basket.

“They (Sylvan Hills) made shots when they needed to make shots and we didn’t make shots when we needed to, but I’d rather it happen now than two weeks from now.”

Despite the loss, nothing changed for either team as far as their projected playoff seeding and Beebe’s outright conference championship hopes. Beebe (20-5, 11-1) still holds a one-game lead and the tiebreaker over second-place Pulaski Academy (19-6, 10-2), and Sylvan Hills (15-7, 9-3) remains in sole possession of third place.

It was the Lady Badgers’ first loss since losing to undefeated defending Class 4A state champion Riverview in the finals of the Beebe Holiday Classic in late December.

“We hadn’t lost in a while,” Richey said. “We may have gotten complacent a little bit. We were 11-0 coming into the conference game tonight and we’ve pretty much got it wrapped up if we can win our last two games and we won those games pretty easily the first time.

“So you would think that we would come through and win those last two games. We just could’ve clinched it tonight with a win, but we didn’t.”

Richey hopes his team can learn from the loss and use it as a way to improve in certain areas before the playoffs begin, especially doing a better job of not getting into foul trouble down low.

“I hope that my post players learn tonight to stay out of foul trouble a little bit better,” Richey said. “They’ve been getting in foul trouble a lot lately, spending too much time on the bench.

“They spend a lot of time on the bench during the game at critical times, and whether or not they’re scoring a lot, they draw a lot of attention and it takes attention off of other people and when they’re not out there that attention’s not drawn, so they go out to our guards a little bit more and they don’t pay attention to the inside as much.

“We’ve just got to do better. We’ve got to practice and try to get better at that before the state tournament happens and hopefully that won’t happen to us again when we get there.”

For the game, Beebe made 19 of 51 shots from the floor for 37 percent. Sylvan Hills made 16 of 30 shots from the floor for 53 percent. From the free-throw line, SHHS made 16 of 22 attempts and Beebe made 4 of 8. From the 3-point range, the Lady Badgers made 7 of 18 attempts and the Lady Bears made 4 of 7. McGraw made all seven of Beebe’s threes.

Sylvan Hills narrowly outrebounded Beebe 22-21, but the Lady Bears had 20 turnovers to Beebe’s 16. Canady and McGraw led the scoring with 21 points each. McGraw’s came on her seven threes and Canady scored 15 of her 21 in the second half. Turner also scored in double figures for Beebe with 12 points. Thompson had 13 points for SHHS and teammate Reigen Thomas added 11 points and 11 rebounds.