Buffalo Island Central's senior Lady Mustangs took advantage of Riverside's woeful free throw shooting to post a come from behind 44-39 victory in the semi-finals of the Gerald Jennings Holiday Tournament Thursday night at Marked Tree.
Riverside led throughout most of the first half and into the middle of the third quarter but couldn't overcome a dismal 10-24 performance from the foul line as BIC rallied for win and a berth in Friday night's championship game against East Poinsett County.
Third seeded Riverside used an 8-0 run to turn an early 4-3 deficit into an 11-4 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter. Marisa Johnson started the Rebel run with an offensive rebound basket to give Riverside a 5-4 advantage. Johnson came back with another inside score before Natasha Coffey added back to back baskets to push the Rebel advantage to seven. BIC closed the gap to 12-6 at the end of the first quarter with an inside score from Katie Olive.
The Lady Mustangs cut the Rebel lead to three when Nan Lee Bridges hit 1-2 free throws with 5:15 left in the first half. After the two teams traded baskets, Riverside upped their lead to seven again as Johnson nailed a 12-foot baseline jumper and Emilee Hook scored on a lay-up following a Riverside steal to make the score 19-12 with :49 seconds remaining in the half. BIC rallied however, as Jessica Shepard, who led all scorers with 22 points, hit a long three pointer and was fouled with :35 seconds left. Shepard completed the four point play and later tacked on another free throw to pull BIC to 19-17 at halftime.
The Lady Mustangs got their first lead since early in the game when Olive hit a lay-up with 4:17 left in the third quarter. An offensive rebound bucket by Johnson knotted the score at 24-24 at the 3:43 mark and then Coffey gave Riverside their last lead of the game, 25-24, with a free throw at the 3:21 mark of the third period. Bridges, who added 16 points for BIC, gave the Lady Mustangs the lead for good with a pull-up 18-footer at the 3:15 mark of the third quarter. BIC closed the quarter outscoring Riverside 14-3 to take a 31-25 advantage into the final frame.
The game stayed close throughout the fourth quarter as both teams traded buckets during the period. Kasey Davis came off the bench and knocked down an 18-footer to pull Riverside to 38-36 with 2:00 to go in the game, but BIC nailed four straight free throws to pull ahead 42-36 and put the game out of reach.
Sam Dunigan led Riverside with 12 points while Johnson added 11 more for the Lady Rebels. Coffey scored eight points, Hook netted six while Davis added two to round out the Riverside attack.
Katie Olive finished with four points while Ashley Tate scored two in support of Shepard and Bridges combined 38 points. BIC shot 9-14 from the foul line and finished with three treys on the night.
"BIC is really good," said Riverside Coach Greg Rainwater. "My kids gave a really good effort and made a good game out of it. At the beginning of the year, no one would have thought we could have even played them close. They are well coached and have good athletes. We just fell a little short. I thought the double foul that gave Marisa Johnson her fourth foul was a big play in the game, but I don't take anything away from BIC, they are a good team," concluded Rainwater.
"I guess it was a good game to watch," said BIC Coach Mike Kinard. "It was a hard fought game that came down to a few plays here and there spread out over the game. The two teams are very familiar with each other so a game like this will always come down to a handful of plays. We would look like we were going to take control and then here they (Riverside) would come. We would make mistakes and they would take advantage. The four point play by Shepard was key because we hadn't had anything big to spark us all night. It was a big play. I was proud of the girls tonight, even though it was a struggle. We played hard but we didn't always play smart. But we kept fighting. There were times we could have quit, but we didn't, and I am proud of them for that," said Kinard, whose team improved to 13-1 with the victory.
BIC advanced to their semi-final match-up with Riverside by knocking off host team Marked Tree 62-51 Tuesday night. Bridges poured in a team high 22 points while Shepard added 18 more to lead the BIC attack. Ashley Tate also hit double figures for the Lady Mustangs with 10 points. Kasey Garrett, Chelsea Nix, and Lauryn Smith each added four points apiece. BIC finished 6-13 from the foul line.
Rudi Martin poured in a game high 26 points while Yolanda Monday added 14 more to lead the Lady Indians.
BIC led 13-11 after the first quarter and 35-22 at the half. The Lady Mustangs held a 52-42 lead entering the final quarter and held on for the 11 point victory.
Riverside advanced to the semi-finals with a 49-41 win over Armorel.
Natasha Coffey scored a game high 19 points to lead the Lady Rebels over the Lady Pirates. Sam Dunigan had nine points, Kasey Davis netted seven, Kelsey Turner added six, Marisa Johnson scored five, Emma Wilson chipped in two, while Emilee Hook added one point to round out the Rebel scoring. Riverside made only 8-18 from the foul line and added three treys on the night.
Brittany Brooks led Armorel with 16 points.
Riverside held a 17-7 first quarter advantage before Armorel rallied to pull with four, 29-25, at the half. Riverside upped their margin to 40-33 after three quarters.
Riverside will return to action Monday night as they travel to Brookland for a non-conference game against the Lady Bearcats. The Lady Rebels will return to 3AA North Conference action as they travel to Piggott Thursday night.