Lady Lions given warm send-off en route to 4A state tournament
GRAVETTE — The weather was cool and rainy Wednesday, Feb. 28, but there was plenty of warmth surrounding the Gravette Lady Lions as they departed on their journey to the state basketball tournament. Taos Jones, the assistant principal at Gravette High School, planned and organized a send-off for the team. Students at Gravette schools, local business owners and Gravette citizens all joined in to show their support for the girls and cheer them on as they departed for the competition.
The players boarded their bus at the high school and were driven past the middle school and the upper elementary school and on to Glenn Duffy Elementary. Despite the falling raindrops, upper elementary students wanted to go outside, so teachers grabbed their umbrellas, youngsters put on jackets and filed outside to line the sidewalk and wave to the girls as they drove past. Many had made signs congratulating the Lady Lions and displayed them as the bus rolled by.
Team members exited the bus and went inside at Glenn Duffy Elementary. Students sat in the halls and cheered for the girls, displayed more lovingly-handmade signs and waved at the Lady Lions as they walked through the halls. Many high fived the Lady Lions and coach Will Pittman as they walked past. Then the team entered the bus again and was transported to downtown Gravette.
Once on Main Street, the girls were greeted by businessmen and women and other area folks. Some parents and grandparents of Lady Lions came to town to join in the celebration. The girls departed the bus about the middle of Main and ran about a block and a half down to the corner before reboarding. This gave them an opportunity to get closer to their cheering fans and work off some pent up energy before their departure.
More signs were seen on Main Street and more cheers were heard. Hands were still waving as the bus drove out of sight and went on down the road to Brookland, taking the players to their final games at Bobcat Arena.
Team members certainly earned the sendoff they received. They had a great season and won their semifinal game against Ozark 67-45 on Friday, Feb. 23, They dominated the first half, outscoring Ozark 22-9 in the second quarter and taking a 37-20 lead into halftime.
The Gravette girls met Berryville Saturday night in the regional final, a team they defeated earlier in the 4A-1 conference tournament finals. They started strong, forcing five first-quarter turnovers, but the Bobcats ended the quarter with a basket and made 10 straight points to open the second quarter. The Lions pulled within a basket, 21-19, but were unable to regain the lead. Berryville took the game, 76-55.
The girls made an excellent showing in state competition, defeating Ashdown 64-39 Thursday in the first round despite making 33 turnovers. The Lady Lions outscored Ashdown 24-7 in the second quarter and led 37-20 at halftime. They made 27 of 37 from the free-throw line.
Coach Pittman praised the girls’ efforts, saying, “We played hard the entire game. Our intensity was good the entire game … In the second quarter, we were aggressive on offense, which led us to the line, which got us those easy points.”
The Lady Lions didn’t fare so well in their quarterfinal game against Riverview on Friday. The Gravette girls led 66-65 with 1:54 left in the game, but the Lady Raiders were 8 of 10 from the free-throw line in the last 1:02 minutes and the Lady Lions suffered a one-point loss, 76-75.
It was a disappointing loss for the Gravette team after coming so close, but the girls represented their school and their town well, finishing the year with a 25-8 record. It is an honor for the Lady Lions to make it to the state tourney and these girls, in their first trip to state, showed a level of performance to be proud of. Gravette fans undoubtedly greeted the team just as warmly on its return as they did when it left.
After a run down Main Street to greet waiting fans, members of the Gravette Lady Lions basketball team wait at the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue for the bus to pick them up.
Gravette Lady Lions basketball team members are greeted by rows of students sitting in a hall at Glenn Duffy Elementary School. The girls walked through the halls before leaving to play in the 4A state basketball tournament in Brookland.