Win over rival Ozark on Saturday was 19th of season.
There were some nervous Bearcat basketball fans after West Fork reeled off a 13-2 run in the second quarter to erase a Booneville lead in the first round of the 4-4A district tournament at Pottsville last Tuesday.
By the middle of the third quarter, though, there were no worries as the Bearcats responded with a 16-3 run to take charge of the game. From that point, it was a matter of seeing out the game as Booneville won 57-43, enabling them to advance to the regional tournament for the first time since 2013.
That put them opposite the host Pottsville Apaches and the Cats cut an 11-point lead to four in the middle of the third quarter. But Pottsville closed that period on a 17-2 run and never looked back, using that game as a springboard to the district championship.
This left the Bearcats looking at familiar opposition in Ozark in the third place game. After an early Hillbilly flurry, Booneville went on a 17-3 run covering parts of two quarters, not letting Ozark score for almost eight minutes. Still they were only up four points after three, but the Cats slapped Ozark with 22 fourth-quarter points and won going away 51-35.
The Bearcats (19-12), who have equaled their 1983 record for most wins in a season, face Shiloh Christian in the first round of the North Region tournament tomorrow (Thursday) at 5:30 at Berryville High School. A win would send the Cats to state for only the second time ever and possibly set up a rematch with Pottsville in the semifinals.
Booneville’s girls looked to take advantage of the fact that Dardanelle had not seen them play yet, but the Lady Lizards used an 18-0 blitz to take control of the game. The LadyCats never recovered and so finished their season at 9-16.
Bearcats 57 West Fork 43
The teams exchanged three-pointers early but Booneville would allow West Fork only two free throws the rest of the period. Nate Riley’s three-point play started an 11-2 run which also included two Logan Bradley baskets and a Jacob Gregory three-ball. Booneville was up 14-5 after one and Bradley added two free throws to start the second quarter, but the Tigers would tally 13 of the next 15 points. Mason Ramey’s three tied the game at 18, but Gregory swiftly responded with one of his own, then Camryn Lawson turned a steal into a three-point play and the Cats were up 24-18 at halftime.
Bradley scored a layup and Riley added two to push the lead to 12; Ramey threw in another bonus shot but Chandler Fritsche and Riley added baskets for 34-21. WF cut it back to eight but Gregory canned his third three-ball and Bradley made a conventional three-point play as the Bearcats led 40-26 after three. After the Tigers got within nine early in the fourth quarter, Blakley Cobb hit a three and Riley added a basket and two free throws to make it 49-35. The Tigers got no closer than 13 the rest of the way and Riley finished it with a finger roll over the rim.
Riley paced the Cats with 16 points; Bradley added 11 and Gregory 9. Booneville limited West Fork to 31 percent shooting.
Pottsville 69 Bearcats 39
Neither team scored until Samuel Dunlop got a layup for the Apaches at the 4:34 mark of the first quarter. This was countered by a Camryn Lawson three-pointer but Pottsville went on a 13-3 run covering the rest of the period and led 15-6 after one. Booneville got back into the game in the second quarter as back-to-back threes by Lawson and Blakley Cobb cut the Apache lead to 17-14. However the hosts made another 8-4 run to lead 25-18 at the break.
Wesley Heikes, who had been dominant inside for Pottsville, stepped out and hit two early threes to start the second half but Booneville had a response. Cobb scored three times inside, Logan Bradley got a layup and Lawson responded to two Heikes free throws with a three-ball to get BHS within 33-29. But a 17-2 Apache blitz, with Pottsville hitting three threes in a row to cap it off, proved fatal. Booneville trailed 50-31 at the end of three and after a Mason Weaver basket opened the fourth quarter, Pottsville went on another tear, outscoring Booneville 17-6 the rest of the game.
Cobb scored 14 points to lead the Cats, with Lawson scoring nine while getting a team-high six rebounds and handing out seven assists. This enabled Lawson to break the single-season assist record; he finished the game with 120 assists for the season, beating Zach Brown’s record of 116. But the Cats could not stifle an Apache team that shot 56 percent, including 50 percent from three-point range.
Bearcats 51 Ozark 35
Two Blakley Cobb baskets meant an early lead for the Bearcats but Colton Millsap scored five points that sandwiched an Ethan Masingale three and Ozark led 10-4. But Nate Riley went in for a layup and Chandler Fritsche drilled two from the line to reduce the deficit to two after the first quarter. But Masingale fired in the next 10 Ozark points, including three bonus balls, at which time the Hillbillies led 20-12. But Booneville started their rally toward the end of the half, with a Logan Bradley basket and two by Cobb getting the Cats within 20-18 at halftime.
A Cobb three-ball promptly put Booneville on top early in the third quarter and then Riley made a steal and layup. Masingale responded with another three but Bradley and Mason weaver scored inside and Cobb added two more free throws before Tristan Haberer hit a baseline jumper to get OHS within four after three. Cobb opened the fourth quarter with two free throws; Ethan Dorrough fired in a three to make it 31-28 but Booneville went on a rampage from there. Weaver dropped two from the line and Cobb sank an 8-footer off an inbounds play; then after two Ozark free throws Cobb threw in a three-pointer, Weaver got another basket and then Cobb was 1-for-2 from the line for 41-30. From there it was a matter of the Cats hitting their free throws and they were 10-for-14 down the stretch to seal the deal.
Cobb dropped in 23 points and blocked three shots; Bradley followed with eight points and nine rebounds. The 6-8 junior took out the old season rebound record set by TJ Hoover and has become the first Bearcat to surpass 200 rebounds in a season. He also racked up his 500th career point. Lawson handed out five assists and Weaver played an excellent game as the Bearcats put up win number 19, tying them with the 1982-83 team for most wins in a single season.
Dardanelle 55 LadyCats 22
An early Dardanelle basket was countered by a well-run Booneville play resulting in a Kasidey Thompson layup, but from there it was all Dardanelle. The Lady Lizards reeled off 18 straight points over two quarters. Bailey Denton stopped the run by hitting two free throws and baskets by Hannah Gregory and Beth Wilkinson followed, but Dardanelle was in control and led 30-11 at the half.
The two teams combined for only 10 third-quarter points, with Baylee Moses and Denton getting the LadyCat baskets. But it was 36-15 after three and after a Denton putback, DHS ran off a 12-2 blitz to lead 48-19. Wilkinson hit a three later on; this would prove to be the last LadyCat scoring for the season. She and Denton co-led in scoring with 6 points, with Denton grabbing 8 rebounds.