SPORTS >>Searcy routs Batesville in home opener
Batesville did not find The Jungle very welcoming on Tuesday night at Searcy High School, losing both games of a doubleheader to the Lions and Lady Lions during Searcy’s home opener for the 2006 season. The Lady Lions held the Lady Pioneers to only five fourth-quarter points to win 61-47 going away. The Lions followed the girls’ performance with a dominating 49-34 win over an incomplete Batesville boys team. Senior post Kallie Bartee only had six points in the second half against Batesville, but her 17 points in the first half kept the Lady Lions out front for most of the first two frames. Searcy got its first extended lead of the night when the Harding University signee knocked off three straight three-point shots in the middle of the second quarter to increase a one-point lead into a double-digit advantage.
The boys’ win was much less dramatic. The Lions controlled the game from the opening tip-off, out hustling the Pioneers on both ends of the court. Searcy also won the battle on the boards pulling down most of Batesville’s bricked shots in the first two quarters. With a lead of 41-24 after three quarters, the JV team saw most of the action in the final frame. Lady Lions head coach Michelle Birdsong was pleased with her team’s performance, particularly the strong rally put up in the final eight minutes.
“I didn’t realize that we scored 12 straight points in the fourth quarter,” Birdsong said. “But I am happy with how strong we finished the game. We really stepped up our defense in the fourth and put a lot of pressure on them.” The game was evenly played until two minutes into the second quarter. Searcy had an 18-17 lead, but Bartee got hot from behind the arc, swishing three tres to increase the Lady Lions’ lead to 27-17. The Lady Pioneers increased their pressure on Bartee for the remainder of the half and held Searcy to only three more points in the frame, while closing the lead to within a single point at the half 31-30.
The score remained close in the third quarter. The Lady Lions pulled ahead by as much as seven, but Batesville rallied late in the period once again. Amanda Kohler hit a jumper to close the lead to within five, and then took the pass from Nicole Smith after Smith stole a Bartee pass to add a layup. The easy basket pulled the Lady Pioneers to within three, 45-42 heading into the final frame.
There would be no Lady Pioneers rally in the last quarter. A three pointer from Smith in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter tied the game for Batesville, but the Lady Pioneers would not put another point on the scoreboard until Rissa Wells put up a pair of free throws in the final two minutes of the contest. By then, Searcy had pulled away with a 57-47 lead. Kayla Medley added two free throws in the final minute to set the final margin, securing a 3-0 record for the Lady Lions.
Bartee led all scorers with 21 points. Taylor Clark added 15 points for the Lady Lions. For Batesville, Jessica Dailey led with 12 points on the night. Batesville’s only lead in the boys game was 2-0 when Ashton Sledge put up the first basket of the night, but after that, it was all Searcy. Lions post Bryan McGrath may not end up as a high-profile D1 prospect like predecessor Chris Brown, but he did show a lot of muscle in the paint against the Pioneers. McGrath dominated the boards over a much taller Thomas Showalter for Batesville, pulling down several key rebounds in the first half that allowed the Lions to pull away early.
“Tonight, we just kind of had some spurts,” Lions coach Roger Franks said. “I thought we had some opportunities in the first half to put the game away, and we didn’t. When you rely on the three-point shot as much as we’re going to this year, you are going to have games that have spurts. We did make the shots when we had to, and we played a lot better defense in the second half.”
Along with an inside advantage, the Lions also had the advantage around the perimeter with speedy guards Matt Cramblett and Justin Rowden. Although Rowden is still trying to heal his football wounds, the senior finished with nine points. Cramblett also had a solid night, adding 13 points.
Cramblett rolled off four straight in the final moments of the first quarter, scoring on a fast break and drawing the foul. He missed the free-throw, but McGrath grabbed the rebound, and chunked it back to Cramblett, who then drove in the paint to add another basket to put the Lions up 13-2 with 1:23 left in the first.
Batesville’s shooting improved somewhat in the second quarter. Baskets by Zach Harrison and Showalter put the game back to within single digits, but Caleb Taylor Rowden extended it back with back-to-back three-point shots to make it 23-10.
The first two minutes of the second half went scoreless, until Lance Ferguson launched a three pointer to put the Lions up 29-16. Levi Dixon followed that with a layup from a steal and assist from McGrath to extend the lead to 31-16.
The Pioneers made one more run to pull within 11 points, but Rowden and Cramblett put the game away in the final moments of the third with a three pointer from Rowden, followed by two straight steals and layups from Cramblett that gave Searcy an overwhelming 41-24 lead heading into the fourth. Cramblett led Searcy with 13 points. McGrath added 11 points for the Lions, and Rowden finished with nine points. For Batesville, Showalter finished led all scorers with 16 points. The Lions will host the Searcy Bank Classic next Monday through Saturday in a double-elimination tournament featuring several area teams.