Town Crier Sports Staff
Brittney Richardson and Sammi Fowler combined for 56 points, 26 rebounds and 14 assists as the Lady Cougars jumped on Buffalo Island Central's Lady Mustangs early and never looked back in posting an 80-58 victory in the finals of the A-AA division of the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament Saturday afternoon in Jonesboro.
Richardson, who has verbally committed to play for the University of Arkansas, scored 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while Fowler recorded a triple double with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists to lead the Lady Cougars to their first ever NEA championship.
ICC jumped to a 20-12 first quarter lead only to see the Mustangs fight back and pull to within 20-18 when Jessica Shepard ripped a three pointer with 6:35 left in the half. The game stayed tight with ICC leading 25-22 when Nan Lee Bridges sank a pair of free throws for the Mustangs. But with 4:35 left in the half, BIC was dealt a severe blow when Bridges went to the bench with her third foul. The Lady Cougars outscored BIC the rest of the half, 15-5, to take a 40-27 lead into the dressing room.
ICC built an 18 point lead to 55-37 as Richardson hit a 15 footer with 2:27 left in the third quarter. The Lady Mustangs tried to mount one last charge when Shepard hit a three pointer and then drove the lane for two more to pull BIC within 55-42 at the 1:16 mark. But seconds later, Bridges picked up her fifth foul and with it dashed any hopes of a Lady Mustang rally. Richardson's three pointer with four seconds left in the quarter gave the Cougars a 62-42 lead entering the final frame.
The final quarter was just a formality as ICC celebrated their championship. Brittney Bailey also hit double figures for the Lady Cougars with 11 points. ICC, 16-3, hit 32-61 from the field and 15-20 from the free throw line.
BIC was led by Shepard who scored 27 points while Bridges had 12 before fouling out. Kasey Garrett scored seven, Katie Olive netted four, Ashley Tate and Stephanie Baldridge tallied three points apiece while Lauryn Smith added two. BIC, 17-5, was 19-60 from the field and just 4-20 from behind the three point arc.
Semi-final action(BIC Vs. Cave City)
Jessica Shepard's steal and breakaway lay-up gave the Buffalo Island Central Lady Mustangs a heart stopping 54-52 victory over Cave City in the semi-finals of the Class A-AA division of the Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament Friday morning at Arkansas State University's Convocation Center in Jonesboro.
BIC trailed 50-46 when Nan Lee Bridges hit a three pointer with 56 seconds to go to bring the Lady Mustangs to 50-49. After a pair of Kayla Qualls free throws gave the Cavewomen a 52-49 lead with 29 seconds remaining, Shepard picked up a loose ball and nailed a three pointer to tie the score at 52-52 with 14 seconds left.
Cave City brought the ball up to attempt a game winning shot but Shepard stole the ball, drove the length of the floor and barely beat the buzzer with the game winner to put BIC into Saturday afternoon's championship game with Izard County Consolidated.
BIC held a 12-11 first period lead only to see Cave City battle back to take a 24-22 lead at the half. BIC built up a 44-38 advantage with 1:02 left in the third quarter before Leah Fugett, who led Cave City with 21 points, hit a three pointer to make the score 44-41 entering the final period. The two teams swapped the lead back and forth in the fourth quarter to set up the final frantic seconds.
"Jessica happened to be in the right spot at the right time, and she knows what to do with it when she gets the ball," said BIC Coach Mike Kinard. "We are best when he don't get to stand around and think. We like the game to be ragged, quick and sometimes out of control, where we just react and make plays. I have a team that never quits, that always fights and hangs in there. The kids didn't panic, the secret was being able to maintain composure, and that(s what they were able to do."
"The loose balls didn't go our way, and I thought we got a little lethargic about going after them," said Cave City Coach Russell Fowler. "We didn't use the clock very well, and took an ill-advised three pointer when we had a three point lead. We should have got the ball to Fugett so she could drive to the basket but we took the three instead. I didn't think that was a very good possession and it played a big key. I thought it was two good teams battling back and forth. BIC has two very good players in Shepard and Bridges. But I was proud of my girls. I thought Fugett had a good game both offensively and defensively, especially guarding Bridges. I was concerned with Bridges driving ability. It was a tough game to lose."
Shepard led BIC with a game high 29 points, including four three pointers. Bridges finished with 14 points while Tate and Smith scored four points apiece. Kasey Garrett added three points for BIC, who shot 7-12 from the free throw line and made six treys on the day.
Cave City, in addition to Fugett's 21 points, was led by Qualls' 13 points. The Cavewomen were 18-24 from the foul line and hit four three pointers.