Lady Wild­cats fall short at buzzer 44-42

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Tony Burns Sports Ed­i­tor

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,

2-1.

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

three-point play.

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.”

Mor­ton

Richardson

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