Lady Wildcats fall short at buzzer 44-42
Two calls could’ve gone either way in the final seconds of El Dorado’s conference game against Hot Springs Friday at Wildcat Arena. The Lady Wildcats didn’t get either in a 44-42 loss.
The Lady Trojans’ Jayla Reed was fouled on a drive to the basket and hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining, giving Hot Springs a two-point lead.
El Dorado fans were angered by the call. Their mood only got worse when the Lady Wildcats’ Amyiah Williams ran smack dab into a Hot Springs defender on a drive into the lane and no foul was called and the final buzzer blared.
“I thought, for one time, mine walled up about as good as she could,” said Hot Springs coach Josh Smith. “It normally goes the other way for us.
So, for the one time it goes in our direction, I couldn’t be too upset.”
Hot Springs, the reigning 5A state champion, improved to 7-6 overall and 3-0 in league play. The
Lady Wildcats slipped to 11-4,
Behind the play of Tasia Richardson and Jessica Morton, El Dorado seized control with a 10-0 run to start the second quarter. Morton’s bucket gave the Lady Wildcats a 23-12 lead with 3:52 left in the second. El Dorado’s cushion was 26-16 at the half and 28-16 after Morton’s bucket to open the third.
But, the Lady Trojans responded with an 8-0 spurt to creep to within four.
“Played my big lineup,” Smith said when asked about his third-quarter surge. “It was the first time I’ve had my whole group healthy and together and all three bigs being able to play at the same time. I took a chance because they had to play on the perimeter on the offensive side but it helped us out down there rebounding. I really thought if we could control the boards we could get it going the other way. We forced some shots, a couple steals, a couple rebounds and we capitalized on the other end.”
El Dorado’s lead was 34-26 early in the fourth before Hot Springs’ Jurnee Hicks came off the bench with back-to-back three-point plays. Morton scored for the Lady Wildcats but the Lady Trojans retaliated with a 6-0 spurt with two baskets from Kendia Nevels and one by Reed for a 38-36 lead midway in the fourth. El Dorado regained the lead on Diamond Hawthorne’s
But, with senior Breya Clark fouled out, the Lady Wildcats struggled down the stretch defensively. Reed drew a foul and hit two free throws to give Hot Springs the lead. On the other end, El Dorado missed the front end of a 1-and1. Reed hit two more at the line for a 42-39 lead with 1:07 remaining.
The Lady Wildcats weren’t finished fighting. The ball whipped around the perimeter before finding Morton, who drained a 3-pointer from the right wing, tying the game with 45 seconds remaining.
The Lady Trojans would hold for the final shot with Reed getting the benefit of the whistle on a drive to the basket.
“I really thought we battled after we got down 10 or 12,” said Smith. “I told them, just take two points at a time. Get
a stop, find a way to get a bucket and get yourself back in it. I thought they did a great job of fighting through some adversity and got lucky and came out on the right end of it.”
Richardson led El Dorado with 18 points and four steals. Morton scored 14 with six rebounds. Hawthorne tallied eight with three assists.
Reed scored eight of her 17 points in the final five minutes to lead Hot Springs. She was 6-of-6 at the line in the final 2:14.
“That’s what we’re asking from her. She’s a 10th grader. She’s got big shoes to fill,” Smith said. “Our Achilles heel has been the free throw line. We were 49 percent going into tonight. We’ve been working on it, trying to get them into a routine and give them something to be positive about when they step up to the line. She stepped up and did it tonight and that was probably the difference in the game was us knocking down free throws.”