Lady Cards Win 5A West District Tourney Championship
LADY CARDINALS WIN CONFERENCE TOURNEY
FARMINGTON — Defensive stands in critical situations combined with an opportunistic offense propelled Farmington to the 2018 5A West Conference tournament championship by a 63-56 score over Vilonia Friday at Cardinal Arena.
To the casual observer a first glance at the statistics looks like Farmington got blitzed by Vilonia sophomore center Paige Kelley, who carried the Lady Eagles with 35 points on 11-of-15 free throw shooting. Kelley played an outstanding game recording a game-high 12 field goals, yet the fact remains — Farmington won the tradeoff and the game using five different players to guard Kelley.
“They’re a difficult matchup to defend because they have that big kid (Kelley) and she’s so talented,” said Farmington coach Brad Johnson. “They also have some kids, who can shoot it. That’s kind of their bread and butter, going inside to her or having her kick it out to the 3-point shooters. You have to be careful. It’s kind of a pick your poison kind of a thing. I’m so proud of our kids guarding their perimeter and not letting them get loose.”
While the Lady Cardinals were forced at times to concede buckets in the paint to the taller Kelley listed at 5-feet-10 but more likely around 6-feet, they blanked her during a strategic 3:29 span in the fourth quarter — and for most of the final two minutes. Kelley’s last field goal came with 1:54 remaining courtesy of Lauren Patterson, who drove hard to the goal, failed to score, then found herself surrounded after claiming her own rebound. She found Kelley in front of the rim with the basket trimming Farmington’s lead to 59-55.
Kelley was also held scoreless for the first 1:29 of the fourth, during which time Farmington upped a 7-point advantage at the end of the third period into a 52-40 lead.
“She’s definitely a lot bigger than me,” said 5-feet-7 Farmington junior Madisyn Pense, who cheated over double-teaming Kelley frequently. “Once you control her it’s hard for her to score. That was the whole point to get her to stop scoring.”
Vilonia was only able to make Farmington pay for that tactic once throughout the fourth when Kelley passed to Aaliyah Cash, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing cutting Farmington’s lead to 54-48 at the 4:40 mark. The Lady Eagles were limited to four made 3-pointers for the game and relied heavily upon Kelley’s scoring. When she wasn’t producing points for a combined 6:51 of the fourth Farmington was outscoring Vilonia 16-9.
Kelley had no putbacks in the fourth as Farmington boxed her out. The physical toll may have caught up to her in the end. She did have an offensive rebound, but missed a shot at point-blank range as did Patterson in a sequence that ended with Anthea Jones clearing a defensive rebound for Farmington with 21.3 seconds to play.
Jones missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Kelley couldn’t keep the Lady Cardinals off the boards. First 5-feet-10 Farmington sophomore Audrey Culpepper got off a shot, then came 5-feet-8 Alexis Roach climbing the glass, who was fouled and sank both free throws to ice the game with 17.3 seconds showing.
At least twice in the third quarter 5-feet-7 Farmington sophomore Makenna Vanzant yanked away defensive rebounds in front of Kelley. The first resulted in a quick outlet to Pense across the timeline, who in turn, threw the ball to a sprinting Roach for a layup to restore Farmington to a six-point lead of 43-37 after the Lady Cardinals weathered a 9-0 Vilonia run. Kelley was called for over-the-back on the second that helped Farmington keep Vilonia without any points over the final 3:25 of the third and take a 47-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
“One of our main goals for the game was to help on Kelley,” Vanzant said. “We had to block her out because she’s extremely good at going for offensive rebounds. My main goal was to block my player out and going for the ball.”
Johnson had high praise for starting center 5-feet-9 Joelle Tidwell,
who fearlessly drove to the basket challenging Kelley and drawing fouls.
“Joelle Tidwell really came on,” Johnson said. “She had a tremendous tournament all week. She’s beginning to see what she has offensively.”
Tidwell got off to a good start scoring 7 of her 11 points in the first quarter. Vilonia opened up an early 7-3 lead with two buckets by Kelley inside and Laney Mears’ 3-pointer, her only score of the game. Tidwell sank 2-of-2 free throws and 1:36 later repeated the performance with an “And One” to offset Kelley’s 3-point play tying the game at 10-all.
Trailing a fast-break Tidwell ran down the lane and her teammates found her before Kelley could rotate over. The transition bucket gave Farmington a 15-13 lead. Midway through the third Tidwell took the ball right at Kelley making a layup on the run. She had yet another driving lay-in on the baseline to put Farmington up, 54-45, with 5:09 remaining in the fourth.
Culpepper’s offense against Kelley helped. Eleven seconds after Kelley put in a Lady Eagle miss, Culpepper hit a 3-pointer at the other end as Farmington scored 12 of the first 14 points of the second quarter. She banked in a shot moving to the basket following a Vilonia turnover and Farmington took a 34-25 lead into the half.
The Farmington girls basketball team won the 5A West District tournament championship with a 63-56 victory over Vilonia Friday in the conference finals at Cardinal Arena. This marks the second time Farmington has won the tournament since 2015 under coach Brad Johnson.