|The Carlisle Lady Bison celebrate after beating defending state champion Earle to win the 2A-3 East district tournament Saturday night at McCrory (Photos by Mark Buffalo)|
By Mark Buffalo
McCRORY — The heart of a champion can never be underestimated. And the Carlisle Lady Bison showed that they have the biggest heart in the 2A-3 East district.
The Lady Bison rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to beat defending Class 2A state champion Earle 50-49 and win the district tournament championship Saturday at Jaguar Gymnasium.
Carlisle, ranked third in Class 2A by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, trailed 43-28 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Earle, the top-ranked team, opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run to lead 35-21.
Carlisle never gave up as it was playing the second half without its leading scorer Kylie Warren, who injured her right ankle on the final play of the second quarter.
Carlisle trailed 40-28 when Lady Bison coach Jonathan Buffalo was hit with a technical foul. After Earle pushed the lead to 43-28, Carlisle’s DeShaye Ricks converted a three-point play with 18.3 seconds left in the quarter to make the score 43-31.
Ricks converted another three-point play early in the fourth quarter to pull the Lady Bison to whine nine at 43-34. Earle’s RoShala Scott hit a jumper to give her team a 45-34 lead with 7:19 left.
From there, the Lady Bison scored eight consecutive points to pull to whiten three at 45-42. Ashby Terry started the run with two free throws. Heather Bowlan, Blakely Ellis and Ricks each scored two points to account for the run.
Earle pushed its lead to 47-42 with 4:37 left. From there, Carlisle made it a free-throw shooting contest. And it cost the Lady Bulldogs.
Earle missed its least five free throws, including three front ends of the one-and-one.
Carlisle’s Kayla Golleher hit a three-pointer with 1:41 left to pull the Lady Bison to within two at 47-45. After Scott missed a free throw, Golleher gave Carlisle its first lead of the second half with her second trey of the fourth quarter at 48-47.
Earle reclaimed the lead at 49-49 with 52 seconds left. The Lady Bulldogs had a chance to push their lead to three but Elaijha Brown missed two free throws with 27 seconds left.
That set up Golleher, who made a basket with 17.6 seconds left. She was fouled on the play but missed the free throw, leaving the score at 50-49.
Scott had a chance to win the game for Earle but missed a short jumper with 11 seconds left. The Lady Bison rebounded the ball and got it up the floor where Ellis threw up a long three-pointer as time expired, sending the Lady Bison and their fans into a frenzy that hasn’t been seen since Carlisle won the Class 2A state title in 2008.
“This was a great show of the character that these young ladies have,” Buffalo said. “This group has never quit on me all year. It’s a testament to how their work ethic and attitudes they have on a daily basis.”
Buffalo said “it was the next man up” after Warren left the game.
“One of their teammates was down and somebody has got to step up,” he said. “We stepped up and made just enough plays. I got the technical foul and I thought it brought a little more energy. I thought the kids responded to it and played a little harder.
“It was a great win.”
|DeShaye Ricks makes a move toward the basket late in the fourth quarter.|
Ricks led the Lady Bison with 15 points. Warren had 12 in the first half. Bowlan and Golleher had eight points each. Ellis scored four. Terry had three. Kiara Miller scored two.
Brown led Earle with 17 points. Scott had 15. Laderyca Childs had 11.
The Lady Bison will be the top seed in the regional tournament, which starts Wednesday at Bison Arena.
Carlisle will play Sloan-Hendrix at 7 p.m. It will be the biggest game of the season. If they win, they will guarantee themselves three more games, including a spot in the Class 2A state tournament. The Lady Greyhounds enter the regional at 13-17 while the Lady Bison are 25-3, having won 14 consecutive games.
“We’ve still got a big one on Wednesday at 7 o’clock,” Buffalo said. “All of our goals are still in front of us. The next game is the biggest game because it is a must-win basketball game.”
|Kayla Golleher battles for a loose ball.|