Leader Blues

Friday, February 20, 2009

SPORTS >> Lady Badgers take over first place

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Ty O’Neill made the most of her final game at home as a Lady Badger.

The senior all-purpose guard finished with 31 points, seven steals, six rebounds and four assists to lead Beebe to a 65-53 win over Sylvan Hills on Tuesday night at Badger Sports Arena.

The win gave Beebe (15-8, 11-0) sole possession of first place in the 5A-Southeast Conference standings.

For the Lady Bears (17-5 overall), it was their first league setback of the year, and put them in second place with a 10-1 conference record.

“I felt like we had a great defensive effort tonight,” said Lady Badgers coach Lora Jackson. “We had a great rebounding effort for the most part. We had some letdowns here and there on defense. We were playing so aggressively that sometimes we gave up some easy stuff. But overall, I felt like it was four quarters of great defense and good rebounding.

“We were all a little bit antsy at first, but once we settled down and got into a groove, we pretty much maintained our lead and did what we had to do to win the game.”

Senior night at Beebe High School on Tuesday was just that with O’Neill’s strong performance, but junior Geneshia Edwards also got in on the action with 13 points, including a 6-of-9 performance at the foul line.

Sylvan Hills guard Latrina Brandon paced O’Neill, scoring-wise, with 31 points and four steals of her own, but she was the only Lady Bear to finish in double figures. Ashley Johnson came close with eight points, while Beebe had senior Sha Jackson with eight points and reserve Audrey Renneker with six points to go along with the contributions from O’Neill and Edwards.

“Twenty-six turnovers is way too many against a good team,” said Lady Bears coach Bee Rodden. “We just had too many unforced errors. We got in foul trouble early, and that hurt us. We just didn’t get any support from anybody else, especially in the first half. When we get 21 points and Latrina has all but five of them, we’re not going to beat people.”

Careless passing led to many of Sylvan Hills’ 26 turnovers for the game. That was never exploited more than in the final minute of the third quarter, when O’Neill came away with back-to-back steals at mid-court, both of which she converted into easy lay-ups. That set the Lady Badgers up with a 44-32 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

“After those two steals, we kind of got hot,” said O’Neill. “And we were ready as soon as we got back out on the court for the fourth quarter. I was ready to put on a show. It was my last game here, so I wanted to make sure I went out with a good one. We have to go there now and beat them again so we can go undefeated in conference.”

Beebe ended the first quarter on a 10-0 run. That took the Lady Badgers from a 10-6 deficit at the 4:18 mark when a Terica Kendrick jumper gave Sylvan Hills the first two-score advantage of the game, to a 16-10 lead when Edwards set up Sha Jackson with a feed inside to end the opening period.

O’Neill scored four of her six second-quarter points off steals. Her final bucket with 1:15 left in the half was assisted by Jackson to put Beebe up 27-19.

A putback basket by sophomore guard Amanda Wheeler at the 6:23 mark of the third quarter gave Beebe a 33-23 lead, and Sylvan Hills was not able to come any closer than six points for the remainder of the contest.

The Lady Badgers dominated the game in every aspect, out-rebounding Sylvan Hills 27-18 and gave up half as many turnovers. They went 26 of 50 from the field, compared to a solid but low-volume 20 of 34 for the Lady Bears. Junior post Danna Jackson led the Lady Badgers with seven boards.

“We’ve got to keep playing, because it’s not over,” Jackson said. “The race is not over yet. We can’t have a letdown. We’ve still got three games left, and we could still end up in a tie situation with Sylvan Hills if we don’t take care of business.”

SYLVAN HILLS BOYS 54,
BEEBE 50

The Badgers attempted a furious comeback in the final two minutes, but the damage had already been done by woeful first-half shooting. Hillside mounted a 46-26 lead over Beebe (14-8, 6-5) with 2:53 left to play before senior guard Zach Kersey got busy with 15 of his game-high 23 points.

The first half was a defensive struggle that resulted in a 19-10 lead for Sylvan Hills (11-12, 6-5) at the break.

Sylvan Hills shot well in the second quarter to erase a dismal shooting percentage in the opening period. The Bears were 2 of 9 in the first quarter, compared to 6 of 11 in the second quarter that combined for 40 percent for the half. Beebe struggled from tip to buzzer, going 2 of 21 for the half.

Ahmad Scott extended that lead for the Bears midway through the third period with a putback, followed by another basket assisted by P.J. Ross that made it 24-11 with 5:33 left in the quarter.

Ross led the Bears with 16 points, followed by 14 for senior guard Harold Ward, but it was the inside play of Demetric Gross that caused the most damage to Beebe. Gross finished with 13 rebounds.

Anthony Forte added eight points and nine rebounds for Beebe.

The Bears finished the game 20 of 41 from the floor, while Beebe went 14 of 54.

The win puts Beebe and Sylvan Hills in a tie for third place in the 5A-Southeast standings.