Town Crier Sports Staff
Buffalo Island Central went into Friday night's 2A-3 conference showdown against Rector with an opportunity to all but lock up the conference championship and an automatic berth in the regional tournament. But for the second time this season, the Lady Cougars slowed down the Pony Express and came away with a thrilling 55-52 victory, forging a three way tie atop the league standings between BIC, Rector and Riverside.
Hannah Parsley burned the nets for 30 points and led a fourth quarter rally as the Lady Cougars overcame a 48-41 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Parsley started the Rector rally with a steal and made 1-2 free throws after being fouled on the play. Jordan Cornelison drilled a three pointer to cut the BIC lead to 48-45 and after Parsley sank a pair of free throws at the 5:15 mark, the Lady Mustang lead was at 48-47.
Ashley Tate stopped the Rector run with a driving lay-up at the 4:46 mark, but the senior fouled out seconds later, damaging BIC's inside threat.
BIC went into their delay game after Tate exited with her fifth foul, but the strategy backfired as the Lady Mustangs failed to make another field goal the rest of the game.
"In the last couple of seasons, anytime I have used the delay game, it has normally paid off," said BIC Coach Stan Fowler. "Tonight it didn't. We made too many mistakes and made too many bad passes."
Parsley put Rector ahead 52-50 when she hit her sixth trey of the game with 1:42 left. Jessica Shepard, who led BIC with 18 points, sank a pair of free throws at the 0:53 second mark to tie the score at 52-52, but it would be the Lady Mustangs' last points of the game.
Rector Coach Matt Rabjohn elected to play for the last shot, but Fowler decided to foul with Tate out of the game and several other players in foul trouble. Amber Haynes went to the line to shoot the double bonus with 18 seconds left, missing the first but sinking the back end to put Rector up for good, 53-52.
The Lady Mustangs got the ball to Shepard, but she misfired from 12 feet as she was harassed by a pair of Cougar defenders. Parsley grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and sank both ends of the double bonus, giving Rector a 55-52 lead with nine seconds remaining.
BIC had one last chance to send the game into overtime, but Kasey Garrett's shot at the buzzer was partially blocked, giving the Lady Cougars a huge conference win.
"I just felt like we had to foul instead of giving Rector the last shot," continued Fowler. "Ashley Tate had fouled out and we had a couple of other players in serious foul trouble. It was also the reason we went into the delay game."
Rector grabbed an early lead and led 13-8 with 2:21 left in the first quarter on a Parsley three pointer. The Lady Mustangs rallied, scoring the last six points of the quarter to take a 14-13 lead. The game see-sawed back and forth in the second period until BIC took a 31-28 lead with a bucket by Lauryn Smith, but Lauren Faulkner's three pointer just before the halftime buzzer forged a 31-31 tie at intermission.
BIC took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Cougars 17-10, using strong defense and some precision passing on offense to take a seven point lead into the final frame.
"We were able to get the ball to Hannah Parsley, and she really came through for us," said Rector Coach Rabjohn. "This past week she has probably played the best three games of her life. Right now I think she is the best player in the league. Defensively, we came out with more intensity, especially in the fourth quarter. Lauren Faulkner hit a huge three pointer right before the half that tied it up and gave us some momentum. That was big. We don't like to lose on our home court. These seniors wanted to go out with a win against BIC. We could have put our heads down when we got down seven at the end of the third quarter, but we decided we wanted to stay in and play. We were surprised they went into their delay game. Five minutes is a long time to hold the ball and we really stepped up our defense and caused some turnovers. Parsley hit some huge free throws at the end. We have had trouble with free throws all season, but we've been at the gym at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings working to improve. We have knocked them down the last three games so the extra work has paid off."
Rector finished 19-24 from the line, shooting 79 percent. The Lady Cougars finished with eight three pointers on the night. Faulkner joined Parsley in double figures for Rector with 15 points.
Sammi Fowler scored 13 points while Lauryn Smith also hit double digits with 10 for the Lady Mustangs. Garrett had five points while Tate scored four before fouling out.Tiffany Parker added two points for BIC, who hit 6-8 free throws as a team and connected on five three pointers.
BIC began the week coming away with a hard fought 54-52 non-conference win over Weiner. Jessica Shepard poured in 18 points to lead a group of four Lady Mustangs in double figures. Sammi Fowler scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, Ashley Tate had 11 points and dished out five assists, while Kasey Garrett finished with 10 points and six assists.
Madison Craft led Weiner with 22 points while Maleigh Harris added 10.
In junior high action, BIC outlasted Weiner 34-25 before dropping a 42-37 decision to Rector.
Whitley Roland led BIC against Rector with 11 points. Taylor Owens scored six, Shelby Qualls and Jamie Harris tallied five points apiece, Ashley Jines and Jenna Pike netted four points each, Karla Marroquin registered three, Rhonda Garrett contributed two while Jenny Walker added one point. BIC hit 10-25 free throws and made one three pointer.
The game was tied 8-8 after the first quarter before Rector outscored BIC 17-3 in the second period to take a 25-11 halftime lead. The Lady Cougars led 33-22 heading into the final quarter before BIC's fourth quarter rally fell just short.
BIC will return to action Tuesday night when they host Turrell at Monette for senior night. The Lady Mustangs will travel to Earle for another 2A-3 conference match-up Friday night.