By TRENT FLETCHER
Town Crier Sports Staff
For the second game in a row, Buffalo Island Central found themselves behind in the fourth quarter of the 60th annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament in Jonesboro, and for the second straight game the Lady Mustangs found a way to win.
After defeating Weiner in the quarter-finals with a come from behind 51-47 victory, the Lady Mustangs staged another late rally Tuesday afternoon to upend fourth seeded Rector 56-49 to advance to the girls A-AA championship game against third seeded Hillcrest.
The top seeded Lady Mustangs led for most of the first half against the Rector, enjoying a 12-10 advantage after the first quarter. BIC held that lead until Rector's Jordan Cornelison hit a trey with 27 second left in the half to give the Lady Cougars their first lead, 21-20. Rector's Hannah Parsley closed out the half with a steal and a lay-up to give the Cougars a 23-20 halftime lead.
BIC cut the Rector lead to 25-24 at the 5:13 mark of the third period, but the Lady Mustangs were whistled for a personal foul and then a technical foul on the BIC bench, sending Rector to the line for four three throws plus possession of the ball. Amber Haynes made two free throws on the original foul and Hannah Parsley connected on 1-2 of the technical free throws. On the ensuing inbounds play, Parsley connected on a three pointer, and suddenly Rector held a 31-24 lead.
The Lady Cougars stretched their margin to 39-31 on a three pointer by Cornelison with 1:01 left in the quarter before BIC cut the deficit to 39-35 on back to back baskets from Kasey Garrett and Jessica Shepard.
A pair of free throws to begin the fourth quarter from Hillary Calhoun gave Rector a 41-35 lead, but BIC answered with a three pointer from Shepard to cut the margin to 41-38. Calhoun responded with an 18-footer, pushing the Rector lead to five, but the Lady Mustangs ran off five straight to knot the score at 43-43. Rector took their last lead of the game, 45-43, on a pair of free throws from Lauren Faulkner, but Shepard answered again with a driving lay-up, and when Sammi Fowler connected on a pair of free throws with 3:54 left, BIC held a 47-45 lead.
Lauren Faulkner tied the score with an offensive stick-back, but Fowler got an offensive put back of her own and was fouled. After draining the free throw, Fowler put BIC ahead for good 50-47 with 2:05 left. Rector closed to within one at 50-49 on a Parsley lay-in, but the Lady Mustangs ran off the game's last six points to advance to Wednesday night's championship game.
Jessica Shepard led all scorers with 25 points while Fowler added 15 more. Ashley Tate scored seven, Lauryn Smith added four, Kasey Garrett netted three, and Tiffany Parker added two for BIC, who finished 14-21 from the foul line and hit one three pointer on the day.
Rector was led by Parsley who scored 14 points while Cornelison added 10. The Lady Cougars were also 14-21 from the foul stripe and hit five treys on the day.
BIC 51, Weiner 47
BIC reached the semi-finals with a come from behind 51-47 win over Weiner Saturday afternoon. The Lady Mustangs trailed 37-36 entering the final quarter but grabbed a 40-39 lead early in the fourth period on a basket by Jessica Shepard.
BIC built their lead to three with a back door bucket from Sammi Fowler, but Weiner tied the score with 1:52 left in the game with a short jumper by Maleigh Harris, who led the Lady Cardinals with 14 points.
Fowler drove the lane for two and was fouled on BIC's next possession. The 5'10" junior forward completed the three point play by draining her free throw, giving BIC a 47-44 lead at the 1:17 mark. Weiner came right back when Lesli Griffin connected on a three pointer to tie the score at 47-47 with 57 seconds left.
Shepard gave the Lady Mustangs the lead for good with a slashing lay-up with 41 seconds remaining, and when Ashley Tate nailed a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left, BIC was on their way to the tournament semi-finals.
Shepard led BIC with 20 points while Fowler tallied 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Lauryn Smith added 11 points. Kasey Garrett had five points while dishing out seven assists and Ashley Tate scored four points and snared nine boards. BIC finished 9-13 from the foul line and hit six treys. The Lady Mustangs shot a dismal 10% from two point range in the first half, but heated up in the second half, hitting 10-15 shots on two pointers.
Joining Harris in double figures for Weiner was Madison Craft who had 13 points. Weiner was only 14-30 from the foul line and hit four three pointers on the day.
BIC 67, Turrell 59
Jessica Shepard pumped in 33 points, including five three pointers, to lead BIC past Turrell 67-59 in the first round of the NEA Tournament Friday night at the Convocation Center.
Kasey Garrett scored 13 points while Sammi Fowler added 11 to join Shepard in double figures. Ashley Tate netted four while Chelsea Nix, Jordan Miller and Tiffany Parker added two points apiece. BIC finished 9-13 from the foul line and ripped six three pointers.
Turrell was led by Jasmine Moore who scored 23 points.