Norphlet shatters Lady Mustangs state title dreams
Norphlet broke a 44-44 deadlock in the final four minutes, going on a 14-0 run, to end Buffalo Island Central's state tournament title dreams with a 58-46 victory over the Lady Mustangs in the Class 2A State Semifinals Saturday afternoon at Marmaduke.
BIC trailed 44-39 before Brittany Fowler sank a 10-foot jumper, followed by Cassidy Qualls' three pointer from the left corner, to knot the game with 4:12 to go. Norphlet's Ashalei Conway went to the line on the Lady Leopard's next possession and sank the front end of a one and one with 3:36 left. Conway clanked the second free throw, but Kalisha Willis stole the rebound and was fouled. Willis connected on both charity tosses, giving Norphlet a 47-44 lead at the 3:33 mark.
The Lady Mustangs missed a three pointer on the ensuing possession, and were forced to foul, sending Kalisha Willis back to the stripe. Willis hit both ends of the double bonus, forging a five point advantage for the Lady Leopards. After another Lady Mustang miss, twin sister Jalisha Willis was sent to the line where the senior guard hit both ends of the double bonus for a 51-44 lead.
A series of turnovers forced BIC to continue to foul, where Norphlet put the game away, sinking seven of 10 foul shots in the closing minutes of the contest to seal the victory. BIC senior Shania Junyor's late bucket set the final score.
The two teams battled to a 13-13 draw after the first quarter. The Lady Mustangs were sparked by Qualls, who connected on a pair of treys, while fellow senior Katelyn Sparkman added a third three pointer.
Norphlet edged ahead in the second period and built a seven point advantage, 25-18, but all-state guard Brittany Fowler brought BIC back with a three point play followed by Brittany Stockton's offensive stick-back. Hannah Poe's free throw cut the lead to 25-24. Kalisha Willis' five-foot floater in the lane at the buzzer gave Norphlet a 27-24 halftime edge.
Norplet raced to a 10-point lead in the third quarter, 38-28, with 1:02 left in the period, but once again the Lady Mustangs battled back. Fowler scored on back to back buckets, followed by Stockton's lay-in just before the third period buzzer to slice the Lady Leopard lead to 38-34 entering the final frame.
Jalisha Willis paced the Lady Leopards (34-0) with 22 points while Kalisha Willis added 15. Samantha Marshall chipped in 12 for Norphlet, who finished 20-28 from the foul line as a team. The Lady Leopards hit four three pointers on the day.
Qualls led BIC, which finished the year 34-9, with 12 points, including four three pointers, while Fowler closed her illustrious career with 11 points and eight assists. Stockton tallied eight, Emily Owens netted six, Poe pitched in four, Sparkman scored three while Junyor added two points. BIC hit six of nine foul shots and buried six three pointers. The Lady Mustangs committed 16 turnovers compared to Norphlet's eight.
"When Norphlet got the three point lead late, it was like giving them a 10 point lead the way they shoot free throws," said BIC Coach Stan Fowler. "The foul count was very lopsided. It was 28-2. It really hurt us. The kids were worried about foul trouble and once we got behind and had to foul we just couldn't catch up. But we had a great season. This is just a great group of kids that really bonded and were very close both on and off the court. This was a very emotional game for me personally. In the last 11 years I have been coaching one of my daughters, either Sammy or Brittany. It's been a lot of fun and very rewarding. They are both not only good daughters but good kids who accepted my role as both coach and daddy. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I wouldn't have traded it for a million dollars," concluded Fowler.
The Lady Mustangs reached the semifinals by trouncing Carlisle 61-30 Wednesday afternoon before pulling away from Bigelow 58-41 Thursday night.
BIC jumped to a 13-11 lead after the first quarter against Carlisle behind Qualls and Fowler, who combined for three treys in the opening period. BIC stretched its lead to 29-22 at the half as Fowler added two more three pointers in scoring eight points during the quarter. Emily Owens also had a big second stanza, adding eight points.
BIC blew the game open in the third period, outscoring the Lady Bison 27-4 to take a 56-26 lead. Fowler had another big quarter with nine points while Taylor McKuin came off the bench to add eight.
Fowler led the Lady Mustangs with 22 points while Qualls and Owens added 10 apiece. McKuin scored eight, Hannah Poe had four while Brittany Stockton, Katelyn Sparkman and Cidnie Brooks added two points apiece. Megan Webster chipped in one point.
Faith Walker led Carlisle with 13 points.
The Lady Mustangs charged out of the gates and grabbed a 21-11 lead over Bigelow, thanks to the hot shooting of senior guard Cassidy Qualls, who blistered the nets for 16 first period points, including four treys. "After the first shot I was really feeling it tonight," said senior Cassidy Qualls. "This was a big win. We are really pumped."
BIC built on its lead in the second quarter behind Fowler and McKuin, who combined for 13 points to give the Lady Mustangs a 36-19 halftime advantage. "I was really happy I was able to help our team tonight," said junior forward Taylor McKuin. "Just to give my team some more points and rebounds and to help cheer them up is what I do best, I guess."
BIC took a 47-33 lead into the final frame and closed the game out hitting nine free throws, including six by Qualls in the final quarter to seal the win.
"It feels so great," said Arkansas State University signee Brittany Fowler. "It feels so good to make it to the semifinals. This team is so close. We are like family. I am just so excited," said Fowler.
Qualls led the Lady Mustangs with 25 points, including four three pointers. The senior guard added eight rebounds. Fowler recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards. Fowler also dished out seven assists. McKuin had 10 points and six rebounds. Emily Owens scored five while Brittany Stockton and Shania Junyor added two points apiece. BIC hit 19-24 free throws and finished with four treys.
Emily Henson led the Lady Panthers with 15 points while Holly Nutt added 10.