Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

SPORTS >> HA ladies knock off Carlisle in title game

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

The Harding Academy Lady Wildcats won the AA Region 6 tournament with an upset over the Carlisle Lady Bison 37-31 in Augusta on Saturday. After losing twice to the Lady Bison during the conference regular season, the Lady Wildcats used a match-up zone to contain Carlisle in the defensive struggle.

“We defended every pass, and every shot,” Lady Wildcats assistant coach Rusty Garner said. “We also rebounded well all night. The biggest difference was the press. When they used it on us this time, it didn’t bother us, we didn’t panic. We told them they didn’t have to be better than (Carlisle) all year; they just had to be better than them tonight.”

Carlisle took the advantage in the early going with a 5-0 lead. The Lady ‘Cats fought back to take over with a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Harding Academy extended its lead in the second, with a 21-15 advantage at the half.

Although the Lady Wildcats maintained their lead in the third, the Lady Bison closed in on them to trail by one, 27-26 heading into the final frame. Carlisle took the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a three-point shot in the early moments of the fourth to go ahead 29-28.

Harding Academy answered with a home run pass on the in- bounds to senior Liz Ashley, who was all alone under the goal for the easy basket to give the Lady ‘Cats the lead once again.

Harding held off the Lady Bison from that point on, claiming their fifth regional title in as many years.
It also marks the second consecutive year that the Lady Wildcats have failed to beat Carlisle in the regular season, but overtook them in the regional finals.

Liz Ashley led Harding Academy in scoring with 12 points. Jessica Stevens was the leading rebounder for the Lady Wildcats with 10.

With the win, Harding Academy will now face Arkansas Baptist in the first round of the AA state tournament today, as opposed to Carlisle’s opening round opponent Jessieville.

The Lady Wildcats easily beat Baptist in the regular season. An opening-round win would put Harding Academy in the quarter- finals of the state tourney on Friday.

Academy boys fall to Hughes

AUGUSTA – If moral victories counted, the Harding Academy Wildcats would be heading to the Class AA state tournament. The Wildcats put up a valiant effort on Friday night against Hughes but fell, 44-37, in the semifinal round of the Region 6 tournament.

Hughes punched its ticket to the state event while Harding Academy finished its season at 14-12. The Blue Devils will now face Altheimer, a 69-39 winner Friday night over Palestine-Wheatley, in tonight’s regional final.

“We’ve had a tough week,” Hughes coach Jason Carmichael said afterward. “We finished up our district on Tuesday, then we’ve had to play against some contrasting styles. Harding Academy really played a high-IQ game against us, like I knew they would.”

The Wildcats trailed just 24-22 at the half and led the game as late as midway through the third quarter when Alex Beene, who had 11 points for Harding Academy, scored on a drive with 4:09 left. Hughes guard Ken Smith put the Blue Devils back on top, matching Beene’s bucket with one of his own. Seconds later, Lance Carr, who led the Wildcats with 12 points, hit 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to knot the game at 32 with 3:18 left in the quarter.

Hughes standout Marcus Washington then scored the most spectacular of his game-high 16 points, converting a steal in the backcourt into a crowd-pleasing dunk and the Blue Devils never trailed again. Hughes led 35-32 after three quarters.

The Blue Devils pulled the ball out and ran time off the clock to begin the fourth period. Kevin Brown hit a free throw and Washington connected on a pair to give Hughes its largest lead of the game at 40-32 with 3:47 left. Beene responded, though, by drilling a long 3-pointer. After two more Washington freebies, James Kee sank two free throws to pull HA back to within five at 42-37 with 1:59 left.

Hughes did just enough from the line from there, connecting on 2-of-4 to seal the victory.

“I never thought we’d be holding the ball against Harding Academy in the fourth quarter,” Carmichael said.
“They really scouted us well. They shut down Kevin Brown inside by just sagging, sagging, sagging. They took him away from us.”

Brown finished with seven points.

Harding Academy led just briefly in the first half. Hughes shook off some cold shooting to open an 8-2 lead. Harding Academy pulled to within 21-20 on Nick Beene’s 3-pointer and took the lead with 1:46 until halftime on Alex Beene’s floater in the lane. Two free throws by Michael Darnell gave Hughes its 24-22 halftime lead.

In the girls bracket, Harding Academy advanced to the state tournament and the regional finals with a 48-39 win over 2AA-South foe England. The Lady Lions led HA, 23-21, at the half. Treys by Sara Montgomery and Loghan Lowery in the third quarter put the Lady Wildcats ahead to stay.

Lowery, who led Harding Academy with 15 points, knocked down four consecutive free throws in the final period. The Lady Wildcats connected on 9-of-12 from the line in the final period.

Jessica Stevens added nine points for Harding Academy, which improved to 21-9.
The Lady Bison advanced with an easy 66-37 victory over Augusta in Friday’s late semifinal.
The Leader’s Rick Butler contributed to this story.