Friday, December 16, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Defense leads to Beebe win

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badgers and Lady Jackrabbits combined for just five baskets the entire second half. Beebe only had two, but it was just enough as the home team held on for a 32-31 victory Tuesday at Badger Arena.

With the score 32-21, Beebe’s Libbie Hill missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the line, and Lonoke’s Kennedy White got the rebound. Lonoke worked the ball around until sophomore Kaley Woodruff got a wide-open shot from the left corner that bounced off the back of the rim at the buzzer.

Lonoke coach Heath Swiney was pleased with how his team defended, and liked the execution at the end of the game.

“I told Kaley to never be afraid to take that shot any day of the week,” said Swiney. “It didn’t fall for us this time, but we did execute and got a good shot to try and win it.

“And I told all of them; ‘Here’s what you did tonight. You did not let what was happening offensively affect what you were doing defensively.’ These girls came to Beebe, which is a solid 5A state tournament team, and had a chance to win all the way down to the last second. And to be honest, I thought it was good when it left her hand. I really thought it was going in. It just didn’t happen for us this time.”

Beebe coach Greg Richey opened his comments by praising Lonoke, but was also very pleased with how his team played defense while the offense struggled.

“Our defense is keeping us in games right now,” Richey said. We’re struggling a little bit offensively this past week or so, but I thought Lonoke was the best defensive team we’ve played all year. They’ve got good athletes and they stayed disciplined defensively tonight. They just played outstanding defense.

“And that meant that we had to as well, and we did that. The kids have bought into playing defense and really playing hard. If we don’t defend, we get beat 15 tonight. We’d been averaging 47 points per game up until these last three, but we’ve been doing those things defensively that have kept us close and we’ve managed to win two of them.”

The statistics were as even as the final score. The two teams combined for just 56 total shot attempts, and both teams went 9 of 28 from the floor. Beebe made five of its nine baskets in the first quarter.

Lonoke (6-3) was 6 of 19 from 2-point range and 3 of 9 from outside. Beebe was 7 of 20 from inside the arc and 2 of 8 from outside. That works out to a one-point advantage for Lonoke, but the Lady Jackrabbits went just 10 of 19 from the free-throw line while Beebe made 12 of 17. Lonoke missed five-consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter.

“We left a lot of points out there on the free-throw line,” Swiney said. “We shoot them every day in practice, and we shoot them after we’ve run a lot. We shoot them when we’re tired. So I don’t know that there’s any excuse for that. We just have to do better.”

Beebe held the biggest lead of the game in the first half. Hill’s short jumper with seven minutes left in the second quarter capped a 10-1 Beebe run and gave the Lady Badgers a 15-8 lead.

It turned out to be Beebe’s only basket of the quarter as the Lady Jackrabbits began to cut into that margin. Lonoke finally tied the game at 17-17 with 3:04 left in the first half, but only managed one free throw the rest of the period while Beebe made four, leaving the Lady Badgers (7-3) with a 22-18 lead at intermission.

Offense was almost nil for both teams in the third quarter. Beebe’s only points came with 3:52 to play when Marianna Richey got a steal and a layup.

Despite it being more than 11 minutes between baskets for Beebe, Richey’s layup put the home team back up by four at 24-20. Lonoke’s Keiunna Walker scored on a layup with a minute left in the third to make it 24-22, and that’s how it stayed until the fourth quarter.

In the final frame, Beebe went 5 for 7 from the free-throw line while Lonoke went 7 of 12.

Hill led Beebe with 15 points while Richey finished with 12. Walker led all scorers with 16 points.