Lady 'Hounds Rebound for State Title
Marmaduke overcame an uncharacteristically slow start with a stirring second half rally, overtaking England 68-56 to claim the girls Class 2A State Basketball Championship Saturday afternoon at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs. The victory gave Marmaduke its first girls state title in school history as the Lady Greyhounds finished the season with a 41-2 mark.
The Lady Greyhounds had steamrolled through the post season, mercy ruling seven of their eight opponents prior to Saturday's finals. But England, who had lost earlier in the season to Marmaduke, took charge early, running to a 13-2 lead, putting the Lady Greyhounds on their heels.
Marmaduke fought back on a pair of buckets from Kelsey McCoy to close to within seven, but England ran off six straight points to take their biggest lead of the night, 19-6, with 1:08 left in the first quarter. Sophomore guard Jordan Mays canned a pair of free throws before Sidnee Bopp picked the pocket of England guard Julia Bryant and raced in for a lay-up to slice the Lady Lion lead to 20-10 after the first break.
Bopp began the second period with a bucket, but England charged back with an inside basket from Samantha Gooden, followed by an Amber Martin three pointer to push the Lady Lion lead back to double digits. Senior point guard Madison Price combined with Mays for the Lady Greyhounds' next eight points, trimming the England lead to 28-22 at the 3:27 mark. A three point play by Price with 2:52 left before the half chopped the Lion lead to three. England answered, closing the half on a 10-5 run, capped off by Alesha Pennister's steal and lay-up, giving the Lady Lions a surprising 38-31 halftime advantage.
Looking for a spark, Marmaduke began the second half employing a smothering full court press that would force seven England turnovers. Steals by Bopp and Price resulted in a 7-0 Lady Greyhound run that closed the gap to 42-40 at the 6:56 mark. A pair of Pennister free throws pushed the England lead back to four. Bopp answered, flipping in a five-foot runner and when Allison Hampton drained a three pointer out of the left corner, Marmaduke had its first lead of the game, 43-42. Bopp scored again on a nifty reverse lay-in before McCoy buried a three pointer of her own, and suddenly the Lady 'Hounds were up 48-42 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
Marmaduke increased their lead to nine points behind two more Bopp buckets before Shelby Blackburn closed the quarter with a three point play to give the Lady Greyhounds a 59-52 lead heading into the final frame.
Marmaduke's defense continued to stymie England in the fourth period, holding the Lady Lions without a field goal. The Lady Greyhounds spread the floor, picked up several easy buckets and began to celebrate as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"I was really proud of our defense in the second half," said Marmaduke coach Rick Smith. "We allowed only 18 points. I thought our press really bothered them. England came out strong and was more physical than we were in the first half, but I thought we came out stronger in the second half and played much better. We just wanted to keep running and keep the pressure on them. We knew they were getting tired. That's just what we do, we just run. This state championship means a lot to me as a coach, but these seniors and this team means more to me than the championship does. They are great kids and they will all be successful in life," said Smith
Bopp finished her stellar career with a game high 27 points along with nine rebounds. For her performance, Bopp was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy. Price also hit double digits, scoring 14 points while dishing out five assists. Mays tallied eight, McCoy contributed seven, while Blackburn netted five points and pulled down a team high 10 rebounds. Hampton chipped in three points while Burgess and Brianna Hood added two points apiece. The Lady Greyhounds hit just two of 13 three point attempts and finished 12-22 from the foul line.
England placed three players in double figures, led by Pennister's 13 points. Bryant tallied 12 while Blanks pitched in 11. The Lady Lions also struggled from the three point arc, making just three of 17 attempts while hitting only 21-37 free throws. England out-rebounded Marmaduke 51-39, but turned the ball over 19 times against the Lady Greyhound press.
Marmaduke reached the finals by destroying Westside-Johnson County 92-59 Wednesday afternoon at Pangburn. The Lady Greyhounds jumped to a 22-13 lead after the first quarter and increased their margin to 46-22 at the half. Marmaduke forced the Lady Rebels into a whopping 21 first half turnovers. The Lady Greyhounds increased their lead to a commanding 78-47 advantage after three quarters, invoking the mercy rule.
Marmaduke placed five players in double figures, led by Price who scored 21. Hampton drained six three pointers and finished with 20 points. Hood tallied 11 while Bopp and Burgess pitched in 10 points apiece. McCoy scored five, Blackburn and Abby Meredith contributed four points each, Mays pitched in three while Adrianna Boling and Shandan York added two points each.
Marlee Stepp led Westside-Johnson County with 13 points.
The following comments were gathered for the team's post-game press conference in Hot Springs on Saturday.
"This championship means a lot to our program. We got to the finals a couple of years ago, but didn't quite get it done, so this is big. This group of seniors has won around 185 games in their careers. It means a lot to our fans and to our entire community," said Marmaduke coach Rick Smith.
"Sidnee Bopp is a really good player. She always has been. She doesn't care how many points she scores. She just wants to win. She had a great performance tonight. You want to win your last game, and that's what she did," said Lady Greyhound coach Rick Smith.
"We were ahead two years ago at the half against Norphlett and we lost, so we felt like being behind tonight we could do like they did and come back and win," said state MVP Sidnee Bopp.
"I foul a lot and I am used to getting in foul trouble. I know how to adjust my game as my team needs it and I knew they didn't need me to foul out," said Marmaduke point guard Madison Price.
"This championship means a whole lot to us. It means a small school like ours can win. We don't play just 2A teams. We played against Paragould and Greene County Tech and beat them. Just because we are a small school doesn't mean we are going to lie down to other schools that are bigger and stronger," said Sidnee Bopp.
Coach Rick Smith: "I told the team before the game that three pointers wouldn't win it, that we were going to have to make two's and get to the free throw line."
"Nerves got the best of me in the beginning and I kind of felt like it got the best of everybody else too but my little PG (Jordan Mays) came out and really gave us a spark," said Bopp of sophomore Jordan Mays.
"I think we all have leadership. We don't rely on just one person. Like today, Jordan Mays stepped up when we needed it and she's like a sophomore just coming off the bench. She got us going and got us up to the lead. Our leadership is spread out to everyone. It's not just designated to one or two people," commented Price.
"I got outrebounded early, and Coach Smith, who is a pretty smart guy, told me I was going to have to be tougher. I went back out and rebounded much better," said senior post Shelby Blackburn.
"I kept telling myself it's a long game and we are going to be okay. It's not always fun winning by 30. You want to work hard sometimes and have a little fun. We haven't had any close games lately, but I had a feeling tonight's might be close. But I think we passed the test," said Smith.
"We always expect a big run. You just never know when it's coming. There is going to be a run, I promise you that," said Marmaduke coach Rick Smith.
"I feel great. I kept thinking about losing two years ago and I kept thinking we can't let that happen to us. After we won everything became real. It's everything we ever dreamed of; so many emotions," said Shelby Blackburn.
"I am super excited but sad that it's over. I knew halfway through the season I wasn't going to be playing any more games, but I am so proud of the team tonight," said Marmaduke senior Alex Richey, who suffered a season ending knee injury earlier in the year.