Thursday, February 21, 2008
Region 1-2A sweep
By BARRY BURLESON
It’s to be expected when the Lady Lions and Lady Cardinals collide – nail biting, clutch shots, celebration and dejection.
Such was the case Friday night at Mount Pleasant when H.W. Byers beat rival Belmont in overtime for the Region 1-2A championship.
It was the sixth meeting between the teams in three years. The Lady Lions have won four, three of those by one point.
“We’re used to playing them close,” said coach Jason Thompson. “We can’t ever pull away from one another. They have tradition and history. We’re trying to build that here.”
The Byers boys made it a clean sweep of district crowns. The cinderella Lions, going in seeded third with a losing record overall, knocked off another tournament underdog, New Site, for the championship.
“We had a rough start to the season,” coach Sylvester Kilgore said. “But we played against tough opponents - 3A, 4A and 5A teams. I told my guys it was going to pay off come tournament time.
“We took a few on the chin, but we learned from it, and we put something together when it counted.”
Lady Lions vs. Belmont
Byers struggled from the free-throw stripe, shooting just under 50 percent, but Rachel Jones hit two when it counted the most. They came with seven seconds left in OT to secure the 67-66 win for “the gold.”
“That’s been a trait of ours since she started playing high school ball,” Thompson said. “We spread the floor and put the ball in her (Jones’) hands.”
Belmont had drilled a three with six seconds left in regulation to send the game to the extra period. The Lady Cardinals also took the lead on a three with 14 ticks to go in OT before Jones’ drive to the bucket during which she was fouled.
“It had to be one of the best district championship games in the state,” Thompson said. “And the best part is we came out on top.”
The two have been ranked one and two in Class 2A throughout the season – Byers filling the top spot the bulk of the time. But the Lady Lions lost to the Lady Cardinals back on February 1 and the two swapped positions.
The Lady Lions trailed by as many as nine in the first half Friday night, that being 32-23 with 5:34 to go in the second quarter.
They clawed back to within four, 36-32, at the half.
Thompson’s team got its first lead since 2-0 with 3:48 to go in the third. Ciara Seldon drilled a three to put Byers up 42-40.
The Lady Lions led by as many as seven in the fourth period but Belmont battled back to tie.
Jones poured in 23 points to lead Byers, which improved to 29-4. Simone Ryan and Amanda Jones added 12 and 11, respectively.
Belmont dropped to 23-5.
Lions vs. Royals
New Site opened the game with two threes and led 14-11 afer one quarter. But Byers took the lead midway through the second and never trailed again en route to the 66-49 title game win. They upped their season mark to 13-18.
“It was our time to host district, and we wanted to take advantage of it,” Coach Kilgore said. “It was a great atmosphere.”
Justin Owens’ three put the Lions ahead for good at 17-14. Jarvis Ware’s steal, drive and acrobatic lay-up upped the margin to 28-21 at the half. Kilgore’s team was in control, 42-31, following three periods and nailed free throws down to the stretch to win by 17.
Owens and Marvin Rayford shared high-scoring honors with 19 each. T.W. Bryson tossed in 12.
Coaches Thompson and Kilgore thanked everyone, from the fans to teachers to adminstrators, for their support during the district tournament.
“They all encouraged us to play hard,” Thompson said.
Finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the Region 1-2A girls tournament were New Site and Baldwyn.
Finishing third and fourth, respectively, in the boys tournament were Baldwyn and Belmont.
The Lady Lions hosted Bruce Monday night of this week in the opening round of North State. The Lions hosted Ackerman Tuesday night. With wins, they advance to tournament play Thursday-Saturday at designated sites.
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