CARLISLE — Girls basketball teams from Conway Christian and St. Joseph, who have split four games this season, will play a final time on a big stage.
Both teams posted impressive victories Saturday in the semifinals of the state 2A tournament. St. Joseph (30-3) posted a 47-29 victory over Norphlet. CCS (29-5) blew past Wickes (35-2) by 50-28.
The two teams will play for the state title next weekend at Hot Springs.
"Neither one of us should need a scouting report," said Conway Christian coach Ashley Nance. "I’m just proud for the school to get to the state finals in our second year of competing in AAA."
Hackett, which stunned East Poinsett County on Friday, threw a roadblock into Faulkner County’s march to the state finals with a 43-29 victory over the St. Joseph boys.
"Three games in three days took their toll," said St. Joseph coach Brent Bruich. "I was concerned whether we would run out of juice. The games took their toll or our bodies. We were drained."
ST. JOSEPH BOYS
The Bulldogs (28-5) hit some cold spells, particularly in the third quarter, and fell to the Hornets.
"We just couldn’t get some shots to drop," said St. Joseph coach Brent Bruich. "We played a good team that I thought was the mirror image of us. They took care of the ball and had a lot of seniors and a lot of experience. We tried to set up some things and we had some open looks but things just didn’t fall."
The Bulldogs scored only eight points the final period but took it to the wire. Layups by Tyler Jones and Marcus Kordsmeier off steals from a trapping defense gave St. Joseph a 38-37 lead with 1:35 left.
Tommy Wilson scored inside to regain the lead for the Hornets but Jones tied the game by hitting one of two free throws.
The Bulldogs’ Marcus Kordsmeier stole the ball from Blake Branham and St. Joseph went for the last shot. However, the Bulldogs were called for a five-second violation.
The Hornets worked the ball to the baseline, where Jesse Williams was fouled with 4.4 seconds left. He hit both free throws to put the Hornets up by two. The Bulldogs called time with 2.1 seconds left. Inbounding the ball from the sideline on St. Joseph’s end, Jones’ lob pass sailed over everyone out of bounds.
"I would have liked another timeout on the inbounds because there was a couple of other plays we could have set up, but there was too much noise," said Bruich. "They (the Hornets) just made some plays."
Branham made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to clinch it.
Wade Beck led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Jones had nine. Branham had 17 for Hackett.
Wickes got waxed.
The Conway Christian girls, hitting 19 of 34 shots and denying the Warriors everything but 3-pointers, was three points short of putting the mercy rule on a 35-1 team early in the fourth quarter.
Two plays typlified the game. At the start of the second half, the CCS girls lined up on Wickes’ end of the court. Kelli Hays bolted to take an inbounds pass and had an uncontested layup on the unguarded goal.
"I got that play from (UCA Sugar Bear coach) Matt Daniel," Nance said. "I saw him use it in a game and I thought if I there ever was a right time to use it, I would use it. It’s worked twice."
At the end of the third quarter, with a 17-point lead, the Lady Eagles spread the court and worked a delay game to perfection, holding the ball for 2:25 before Christina DenHartog broke for a layup at the buzzer.
"My dad (John Hutchcraft) saw the game against Buffalo Island Central when we got a 15-point lead and he told me that I ever got a lead like that in a state tournament, I’d better hold it," Nance said.
The Lady Eagles, powered by 3-point shots by Kelly Hays and DenHartog, scored the first eight points and broke to a 13-2 lead early in the first quarter.
Wickes whittled that to eight at the half before CCS began the third quarter with the trick play, a 3-point basket by Hays, three free throws and another 3-pointer by DenHartog.
The Warriors hit six 3-pointers.
"The scouting report going in was they were not a 3-point shooting team but their big player (Danielle Franchiseur) was probably not used to playing against two 6-0 post players (Bre Hobbs and Mallory Clutts) in 2A basketball," Nance said. "I thinking that bothered her."
DenHartog scored 17 points for CCS while Clutts added 10, Hobbs nine and Hays eight. Wickes did not shoot a free throw and Franchiseur was held to two points. Kellie Wise’s five 3-pointers led Wickes with 15.
ST. JOSEPH GIRLS
Three telling points of the Lady Bulldogs victory over Norphlet:
* Kelsey Davidson, Jessica Moix and Brooke Enderlin and Heather Moix keyed a surge out of the blocks that produced an 18-5 St. Joseph lead after a quarter.
* In the final seconds of the first period, a ball was headed out of bounds. Enderlin chased it down and flipped behind her back to Moix for a layup at the buzzer.
* After the Lady Leopards (27-8) trimmed the deficit to 23-18 at halftime, Davidson, Enderlin and Moix combined for three straight 3-point baskets to build the St. Joseph lead to 11. Norphlet never made another serious run and the Lady Bulldogs (30-3) never were seriously challanged after that.
"These girls have been playing together since at least the fifth-grade and they know each other’s games, where they are gonna be on the court and how to set each other up," said St. Joseph coach Chris Kordsmeier. "We had great balance. We executed very well, moved the ball very well on offense and made good decisions. Norphlet’s the type of team who will put a lot of pressure on you.
"We did a good job on defensive rebounding. This time of year, you have to do a good job of defensive rebounding to get this far."
Moix, nursing a hamstring injury, but guiding the Lady Bulldogs’ offense nicely at point guard, had nine points and four assists the first half.
"Jessica was able to drive and get some good shots and that allowed us to be able to kick the ball out for good shots," Kordsmeier said. "You worry about her playing through the hamstring injury but she did a good job.
Davidson led St. Joseph with 14 points and post Heather Moix added 13, eight in the first quarter as beneficiary of some of Jessica’s assists. Enderlin and Jessica Moix each had nine.