Lady Cougars End Season in Regional
In an emotional end to their season, the Rector Lady Cougars fell to Izard County in the first round of the 1A Region 2 basketball tournament last Thursday at Calico Rock. Coming off the lopsided win over Armorel in the third-fourth place game in the district at Bay the previous week, the RHS girls ran into a highly-ranked ICC squad and fell behind early in their regional match-up. In the battle of the two Lady Cougar squads, the ICC girls stifled the Rector offense throughout the contest, en route to a 53-30 win.
Izard County controlled the opening tip of the game, as they proceeded to run nearly a minute off the game clock before Jen King hit a jumper to make it 2-0. Taking advantage of a distinct size advantage inside, they turned to a tight press, resulting in several Rector turnovers in the early stages of the contest
The drought continued for the Rector squad throughout the first quarter, as all they could muster was a Gabby Clark free-throw, as she converted on one of two from the line. As a result, ICC stretched the lead to 18-1 by the end of the first quarter.
The Izard County girls continued to press in the second quarter, although the Lady Cougars began to find shooting room. Senior point guard Matison Dean scored her first five points of her team-high 10 in the frame, as she hit a three-pointer and a field goal. Sarah Isom came off the bench and hit a trey, and Sawyer Hendrix nailed a field goal, but ICC took the frame 13-10 to extend their lead to 31-11 at the half.
The third quarter evolved into a defensive struggle, with neither team able to score in double figures.
Mylessa Gant came off the bench for Rector and scored all five of their points in the quarter, as she hit a field goal and converted on 3 of 4 trips to the free throw line. As for ICC, they got a trey from Jen King, and 3 of 4 from the free throw line by Kennedy Cooper, as they took the frame by the narrowest of margins, 6-5, taking a 37-16 lead into the fourth.
The two teams swapped baskets early in the fourth quarter, with both coaches turning to their benches as the clock wound-down. Dean added a three-pointer and three free-throws to her tally before going to the bench late in her final contest for the team, with the Lady Cougars also getting treys from Hendrix and Bailey Hoots to set the final score.
"They're solid at every spot and they're well-coached," Rector Coach Matt Dean said of their first round opponents. "You know, our regional has probably three of the five best teams in the state with ICC, Bay and Norfork and we knew we were going to have to play near perfect to even have a chance to beat them."
Of his Lady Cougar squad, Dean noted the early drought was likely associated with the magnitude of the contes. "I thought they looked a little scared early, this is the first time this bunch has been in the regional," he offered. "But, I'm proud of them, they plugged along. It was a tough year, but it ended pretty good with us being in the regional. This time of year you have to play well, or it's going to be over."
Dean was the only Rector player in double figures with 10, while Gant and Hendrix had 5 points each, Colby Robinson, Hoots and Isom had 3 each and Clark finished with 1. As a team the Rector girls were 7 of 11 from the free throw line, while ICC converted on 8 of 10 attempts.
Pacing the Izard County squad was Cooper with 13, despite early foul trouble.
"She's a dandy player, but she's not all they've got," Dean added of the ICC post player. "They've got some good players around her too."
Also in double figures for ICC were Jen King and Sam King with 11 each.
"I'm going to miss my seniors. This is the first bunch of seniors I've had go seven through 12 since I've been a Rector, and they've been a good crew," Coach Dean said of this year's team. "They've always done just what I've wanted them to do, and they're just a good bunch of kids."
Friday afternoon ICC beat Bay 44-42 to advance to the championship game against Norfork. The Lady Panthers had advanced with a 72-42 pounding of Maynard, and Saturday night they took the title over Izard County 59-35.