Lady Lions crowned Queens of the NEA Tournament
It took 25 years, but the Manila Lady Lions are once again the "Queens of the NEA!" Manila raced to an early 5-0 lead and never trailed in disposing of 3A-3 conference rival Rivercrest 69-59 in the finals of the 67th Annual Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament Tuesday night at the Convocation Center on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
Manila, which last claimed an NEA Girls title in 1988, handed Rivercrest (12-1) their first loss of the year, and avenged an early season loss to the Lady Colts. The Lady Lions (16-2) got another stellar performance from senior point guard Emily Cook, who pumped in 22 points, while fellow senior Kirsten Adcock had her outside stroke working, finishing with 21 more, including four three pointers.
Manila led by as many as nine in the opening period, after Adcock banged home a trey late in the quarter, before settling on an 18-12 lead after the first break.
The Lady Lions pushed their lead to 10 points midway through the second period when Cook buried a three pointer from the top of the key. The lead ballooned to 14 points, 35-21, after Adcock and Cook each connected on a pair of free throws with 1:13 left before intermission.
Damonique Brown, who poured in a game high 32 points, tried to keep the Lady Colts close. Brown drilled her third triple of the quarter at the 1:04 mark, and followed up with a driving lay-up just before halftime to close the Lady Lion advantage to 35-26 at the half.
Manila came out strong in the third quarter and built its lead to double figures. All five starters scored during the run before Adcock's three from deep in the right corner as the third period horn sounded gave the Lady Lions a 53-36 bulge heading into the final frame.
Brown teamed with Taylor Harris to score 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Lady Colts fought to within eight, 62-54, with 1:39 left in the game, but the run ended when Brown was whistled for her fifth foul at the 55 second mark.
Joining Cook and Adcock in double digits for the Lady Lions were Kailen Shelton and Burrow who scored 12 and 10 points respectively. Taylor Teague pitched in four. Manila hit 21-26 free throws and finished the night with six three pointers. Emily Cook, Deven Burrow and Kirsten Adcock were all named to the All NEA Tournament team.
Joining Brown in double figures for Rivercrest was Harris with 15 points. The Lady Colts connected on just 6-14 foul shots but made seven three pointers, including six by Brown.
"It was a big win for our program and for our community," said an elated Coach Mark Manchester. "We played really, really well. The girls played so hard and executed at a high level. I am really happy with our kids right now. Rivercrest is a very good team. Brown (Damonique) is an outstanding player. You aren't going to stop her. You just have to make her work for the points she gets. I thought the big thing tonight was that we played under control on both ends of the floor. When we do that we can be pretty good. We have a lot of goals still ahead of us and we are just trying to work hard every day and get better. This is another step in us maturing to get to the type of team we want to be at the end of the year."
The Lady Lions will return to action Thursday night when they travel to Harrisburg for a 3A-3 conference matchup.