Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

SPORTS>>Badgers go on road for first conference victory

Leader sports writer

The Beebe Badgers snapped a season-long conference losing streak against Paragould on Friday night 58-45. The Badgers did what they had to do down the stretch, hitting 13 of 15 free throws in the final two minutes of the game to secure the win. It took a bit of adjusting offensively for Beebe to take control of the game in the second half. The Badgers held a narrow 26-24 lead at the intermission after struggling with the Rams’ box-and-one defense on sophomore Zack Kersey. Paragould isolated Beebe’s biggest scoring threat all night, holding the young standout to only seven points.

Beebe began to find ways around the extra attention to Kersey in the second half, taking the ball to the middle where senior Jordan Gierach and junior Charlie Spakes found the hoop on a number of occasions. Beebe started to slowly pull away, but Paragould refused to adjust its defensive priorities. “We were very excited to get that win,” Beebe coach Chris Ellis said. “It’s nice to get the monkey off our backs. Hopefully it’s a sign of better things to come.” The win was the third conference victory in as many years for the Badgers, who are now 4-16 overall and 1-9 in the 5A-East Conference.

Kersey was not able to get to the goal much in the first half, but another underclassman took up a lot of the slack in the early going from the bench. Sophomore Brandon Pursell came up with five points in the opening frame, including a three pointer, and a put-back goal that came off an offensive rebound that kept the Badgers out front in the early going.

The Badgers began to get easy looks in the paint in the third quarter with all the attention on Kersey, but the Rams refused to abandon their strategy. This allowed Gierach to control the low block, and gave Spakes room to find looks in the paint.
“I think we just got more comfortable with the box-and-one they were running on us in the second half,” Ellis said. “We prepared for it in practice, but it’s never the same in a game-type situation. Zack did a pretty good job of making those guys work hard, and that helped us to open up the middle of the lane.”

Gierach led all scorers in the game with 22 points. Spakes finished with 13 points for the Badgers. Kersey and Trey Smith both had seven points. Free throw shooting was a major factor for Beebe in the game, hitting 16 of 21 attempts in the game. Smith came away with five of six foul shots in the final two minutes for the majority of his points in the game. The Lady Badgers forced Paragould into overtime on Friday, but fell in the extra period for a 69-60 loss. Beebe is now 12-7 overall and 7-3 in conference.

Beebe hosted North Pulaski last night after Leader deadlines, and will take on Blytheville on the road Friday night.