Leader Blues

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SPORTS >> Lady Badgers hang on

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter


The Beebe Lady Badgers needed every bit of their 14-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter against Nettleton on Friday. The Lady Raiders (6-8, 0-2) struggled against the Beebe press most of the game, but made a game of it late before the Lady Badgers held on for a 50-47 win on Friday night at the Badger Sports Arena.

Beebe (11-2, 2-0) led 35-21 after three, but the Lady Raider offense finally came to life and nearly pulled off what would have been the biggest 5A-East upset of the early season.

Junior guard Ty O’Neill turned in a 26-point performance to lead the Lady Badgers, but it was the defensive alertness of senior Bailey Thomas and junior Neshia Upchurch that prevented the Lady Raiders from stealing the win.

Erica Sharp tied the game with a pair of fouls shots with 1:12 left in the game. O’Neill then scored her final two baskets of the night with a pair of layups, the second of which was set up by a mid-court steal by Thomas.

That put the Lady Badgers up by four, but Hannah Chambers quickly took the ball down court and hit a three pointer for the Lady Raiders to make it 48-47 with 24 seconds left in the game.

Sharp almost made the play of the game when she tried to pick O’Neill in the backcourt on the near sideline. She got the ball free and made the save to stop the ball from going out of bounds, but Upchurch scooped up the ball and headed back the other way, picking up a foul with only 11 seconds left to play.

Upchurch delivered with two perfect tosses from the stripe that put Beebe back up by three. The Lady Raiders’ game-tying attempt fell short.

“We pulled through,” Lady Badgers coach Lora Jackson said after the game. “It just wasn’t the performance we should have had. We missed a lot of easy shots. Defensively, we let them do the easiest things. They ran set plays over and over and over, and we weren’t defending them.”

Jackson hopes her team learned a lesson from the near-misstep.

“There are things you have to do, no matter who you are, or you’re going to find yourself not where you should be,” she said. “You have to play all the time, not just to where you feel like things are comfortable for you.”

The Lady Badgers utilized their defense well in the first half on their way to 11 steals. That led to an 8-4 lead for Beebe after one quarter, and a dominating second frame by O’Neill allowed the Lady Badgers to coast to a 17-10 halftime lead.

O’Neill started the second quarter off with a steal that she converted into a layup for a 10-4 lead, and followed that with another layup and a foul shot to put the Lady Badgers up by nine.

She added the last of her first half points at the 2:57 mark when she hit a pair of free throws that put Beebe up 15-10.

Seniors Emily Bass and Thomas got in the mix during the third quarter. Ashley Watkins was the first senior to score with a putback to start the frame, but Thomas added to the lead with a 12-footer at the 6:48 mark that put the Lady Badgers up 23-11.

Bass and Thomas then combined for four straight points before Upchurch got back on the board with a shot assisted by Bass.
The steals didn’t come as frequently forBeebe in the third quarter, but Nettleton’s inability to hit from the floor enabled the Lady Badgers to take a 35-21 lead at the end of the third quarter.

O’Neill led the Lady Badgers with 26 points. Upchurch and Thomas each added seven points for Beebe. For Nettleton, Sharp led with 16 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Nettleton 55, Beebe Boys 43

The Badgers played well on Friday, but couldn’t hang on during the final four minutes of the game. Over that period, Raiders post player Otto Collins bulled his way inside for eight of his 23 points.

The Raiders had defensive issues of their own throughout most of the game. They struggled to contain senior Charlie Spakes, who turned in a solid offensive performance with 22 points.

“We played well for two-and-a-half quarters,” Beebe coach Bryan Martin said. “We just didn’t do any of the things we needed to do in the fourth quarter to give ourselves a chance. The bottom line is that they made plays late and we didn’t. A good team always finds a way to score in a close game, and tonight, they were that team.”

Zach Kersey added nine points for Beebe off two three pointers and three free throws despite the use of a mask to protect a broken nose sustained last week in practice. Trey Smith added five points.

Beebe fell to 6-7 overall and 0-2 in the 5A-East Conference with the loss, while Nettleton improved to 12-2 and 2-0. Beebe hosted Wynne last night after Leader deadlines.