Lady Greyhounds Complete Outstanding Season
Norphlet put together an 11-0 run in the second half to overtake Marmaduke, claiming the Class 2A State Basketball Championship with a 44-41 victory Thursday afternoon at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock.
The Lady Leopards trailed 32-27 late in the third quarter when senior Anna Bolding drained a three pointer to pull Norphlet to within two entering the final period of play. Bolding ripped her second consecutive trey to open the fourth quarter, putting the Lady Leopards on top, 33-32. Ashalei Conway increased the Norphlet lead with an offensive stick-back, followed by a three-point play by Jalisha Willis to complete the Lady Leopard offensive surge. Suddenly, Norphlet held a 38-32 lead with 4:57 left in the game.
The Lady Greyhounds battled back, scoring seven straight points to regain the lead, 39-38, at the 2:03 mark. Jessica Lee ignited the Marmaduke rally with a baseline jumper followed by a Callie Price free throw. After a Norphlet turnover, Lee took a feed from Sidnee Bopp for an easy inside bucket, and when Price drained a pair of free throws on Marmaduke's next possession, the Lady Greyhounds momentarily held the lead again.
Kalisha Wilis, who received the game's Most Valuable Player award, answered with a reverse lay-in to put the Lady Leopards ahead to stay, 40-39, with 1:30 remaining. Willis came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game on Marmaduke's next possession, stealing a Lady Greyhound pass and driving the length of the floor for a lay-up, giving Norphlet a 42-39 edge with 1:01 to go.
Whitley Boggs saw her potential game-tying three pointer go halfway down before spinning out, but Price grabbed the rebound and put it back in to cut the Lady Leopard lead to 42-41 with 47 seconds left.
Norphlet went to a four corners offense, forcing Marmaduke to foul at the 22 second mark. Kalisha Willis misfired on the front end of the one and one, and the Lady Greyhounds grabbed the rebound, but Alexus Jones lost the handle on the ball as she attempted to cross midcourt, giving Norphlet possession with 12 seconds to go. Marmaduke immediately fouled, sending Jalisha Willis to the stripe where the senior guard calmly sank both ends of the one and one, giving the Lady Leopards a 44-41 lead.
Marmaduke had one last chance to send the game into overtime, but Jones' desperation three-point attempt fell short, and the Lady Leopards snared the rebound and ran out the remaining two seconds on the clock, giving Norphlet its first state championship in school history.
"It's just a great feeling," said Norphlet coach Justin Welch. "We beat a very good team today. The two three-pointers by Anna turned the game in our favor. This is a big victory for our school and our fans. We had a lot of pressure on us being undefeated, but these kids came through. Kalisha and Jalisha Willis both played fantastic. Ashalei Conway came close to a double-double and Samantha Marshall did a great job defensively on Bopp. It was a complete team effort," said Welch.
"This game was like a heavyweight fight," said Marmaduke coach Rick Smith. "We had a big run to begin the game and they came right back. It was a good basketball game for fans, for the players and for the coaches. It was a fun atmosphere. We probably threw it away too many times. I think we ended up with 16 turnovers. But give credit to Norphlet. They were just a little bigger and stronger and we weren't able to box out. They are a very good basketball team. They deserved to win today. The three-pointer by Whitley near the end looked like it was going in. It was a good shot. It just didn't fall and that happens sometimes. Whitley had a great game, especially in the first half. But I couldn't be more proud of these kids if they had won the game. They are my kids and I love them. Making the state finals has been a big thing for our school, our community and our fans. It has been awesome," said Smith.
Senior guard Whitley Boggs came out on fire to begin the game, scoring Marmaduke's first 10 points, including back-to-back three's to give the Lady Greyhounds an early 10-3 advantage. Norphlet answered with an 8-0 run to take an 11-10 lead after the first break.
Boggs began the second quarter with a long trey to put Marmaduke back on top 13-11. The Lady Greyhounds upped their margin to 23-13, completing a 13-2 run. Jessica Lee connected on back-to-back lay-ins while Boggs followed with a five-foot floater and a three-point bomb, giving Marmaduke a 10-point cushion with 40 seconds left in the half. Kalisha Willis' basket with two seconds left before intermission sliced the Lady Greyhound lead to 23-15.
Norphlet began the third period scoring six straight points to close the Marmaduke lead to 23-21 at the 4:48 mark. The Lady Greyhounds built their lead back to five on a free throw by Jessica Boggs and a steal and lay-up by Bopp. The two teams traded baskets over the next two minutes before Bolding's trey to close the quarter cut the Lady Greyhound lead to 32-30.
Marmaduke hit 41 percent of its first half field goals, including a four for nine performance from three point land, but the Lady Greyhounds went cold in the second half, shooting just 27 percent, including 0-13 from behind the three-point line. The Lady 'Hounds hit five of eight free throws. Marmaduke out-rebounded Norphlet 37-28, but lost the battle of the turnovers, 16-11.
Whitley Boggs scored 18 points, all in the first half, to lead the Lady Greyhounds, who finished the year with a 41-3 record. Lee scored 10 points while Price added eight points and eight rebounds. Bopp netted four while Jessica Boggs added one point.
Jalisha Willis led Norphlet, which completed a perfect 35-0 season, with 13 points. Willis also had five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Twin sister Kalisha Willis added 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals. Conway scored nine points and grabbed 10 boards. Bolding tallied six while Samantha Marshall, who did an outstanding job defensively on Bopp, finished with four points.
The Lady Leopards hit 41 percent of their field goal attempts while finishing two of six from behind the three-point line. Norphlet made four of 10 free throws on the day.
There were five lead changes in the game and the score was tied once.