SPORTS >> Lady Lions get chance for assault on Summit
Special to The Leader
WEST MEMPHIS — Kristen Celsor was just too much for Pine Bluff on Saturday in the semifinals of the Class 6A girls state tournament.
Celsor scored a game-high 28 points and made herself a candidate for tournament most valuable player as the Searcy Lady Lions overpowered the Fillies 53-39.
Searcy (25-5) will play Watson Chapel (24-5) for the championship at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Celsor, who benefits from the presence of teammate Lauren Harrison, has been hard for the opposition to stop during the tournament. She has averaged 23.3 points per game as Searcy swept through the first three rounds of the tournament.
“Kristen has played outstanding ball so far in this tournament,” Searcy coach Michelle Birdsong said. “I think a lot of it is the other teams we’ve played have focused on stopping Lauren and it’s allowed her to move around freely.”
Celsor, Harrison and junior Elliott Scarbrough, all front-line players, had to use their ball-handling skills in most of the tournament games, especially as Pine Bluff and Texarkana used full-court, pressure defenses.
“Our big girls are our best ball-handlers sometimes,” Birdsong said. “They had to bring it up against the press a lot for us.”
Celsor and Harrison, who scored 10 points against Pine Bluff, came alive for Searcy when Pine Bluff cut a big lead to 33-28 with 4:27 to play in the third quarter. The two six-footers each hit two baskets to lead an 8-0 run to end the period, giving the Lady Lions a 41-28 lead heading into the final quarter.
“Those were big baskets for us,” Birdsong said. “All of our big girls came through for us late.”
Scarbrough, who scored 22 points in Searcy’s 65-56 quarterfinal victory over Texarkana, also played a huge role in the end for Searcy, making two fourth-quarter free throws. She finished with eight points.
Lashondra Bailey led Pine Bluff (19-11) with 16 points while Gabrielle Grady contributed 10.
Watson Chapel qualified for the state final by outlasting 6A-South foe El Dorado 64-53 on Saturday. Watson Chapel won the 2008 state title before getting beat in last year’s semifinals by West Memphis.