Valley Springs uses fourth quarter free throw barrage to bounce Lady Rebels 48-36
Ashlynn Taylor and Brylee Graddy combined to sink 21 of 22 foul shots in the fourth quarter, leading defending 3A State Champion Valley Springs to a 48-36 victory over Riverside in the quarterfinals of the 3A Regional Tournament Thursday afternoon at Lake City.
Taylor, who finished with a game high 17 points, hit all 12 of her free throw attempts in the final frame, while Graddy banged home nine of her 10 charity tosses during the period. The Lady Tigers closed out the game knocking down 16 consecutive attempts from the line. On the night, Valley Springs went 25-29 at the foul stripe, shooting a blistering 86 percent.
It was a frustrating way to end the season for the Lady Rebels, who struggled to find the range from both the field and the foul line. Riverside, normally a good three point shooting team, made just two from beyond the arc on the day. The Lady Tigers stayed close to Riverside's Bailey Fisher, one of the top shooters in the area, shutting her out from the field while holding the sophomore sharpshooter to just two points, both from the foul line. Riverside connected on just 18-28 free throw attempts.
Valley Springs controlled the tempo from the outset and held a 14-5 lead after the first break. Ashley Henderson , a 6'3" sophomore center, scored six of her 10 points in the opening stanza helping the Lady Tigers get off to a quick start on the Lady Rebels' home court.
Riverside continued to have problems in the second quarter, scoring just four points. Brittany Sain nailed a trey while Briley Douglas canned a free throw. Valley Springs didn't fare much better, getting a pair of two pointers, but held an 18-9 advantage at the half.
The Lady Rebels began to fight back in the third quarter behind Haven Robertson and pulled to within 23-18 heading into the final period of play. But the Lady Tigers worked their way to the foul line and took full advantage with superior marksmanship to advance to this week's state tournament at Bald Knob.
For Riverside it was a disappointing end to a very successful season that saw the Lady Rebels claim both a blended conference championship and a NEA crown. But on this day the shots wouldn't fall and the more battle tested and veteran Lady Tigers prevailed.
Robertson led the Lady Rebels with 13 points. Sain also hit double digits with 10. Hattie Milligan tallied all six of her points in the fourth quarter, Whitley Wagganor had four, while Douglas chipped in one.
Joining Taylor and Henderson in double figures for Valley Springs was Graddy with 12 points.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well at all today," said Lady Rebel Coach Spencer Hoffman. "We struggled scoring the basketball. The free throw line was not good to us tonight. But you have to tip your hat to Valley. They are a championship program. They are what we are trying to get to. Tonight, we didn't have our A-game. I thought our effort was there and I thought our desire was there but we just didn't finish some plays. They closed the door at the foul line in the fourth quarter after we had cut the lead to five and just wouldn't let us back in it. They did what champions do, they finished. It would have been easy for our kids to hang it up when shots wouldn't fall but they just kept battling, clawing, and scratching to give themselves a chance. That's what kind of kids they are. I would rather be in my locker room than Valley's, win or lose. We have a bright future in front of us and are looking forward to next season."